Wsj: Us Air-america West Talks Intensify


Dec 2, 2003
US Air-America West Talks Intensify

Airbus Loan of $250 Million
Moves Merger Still Closer,
But Future Challenges Await
May 19, 2005; Page A3

US Airways Group Inc. and America West Holdings Corp. worked yesterday to finalize a merger agreement that could be announced as early as today, after nailing down a crucial $250 million loan from aircraft maker Airbus and nearing equity and financing agreements with other key players, people familiar with the matter said.

But even if a deal is completed, creating the nation's No. 6 airline in terms of traffic and ultimately bringing US Airways out of bankruptcy-court protection, industry observers warn that the new carrier still faces significant obstacles from labor unions, tough industry conditions and competition from budget carriers such as Southwest Airlines. (Related article.)

The board of US Airways met yesterday, and America West's board is scheduled to meet today, and the airlines were preparing for an announcement late today, according to the people familiar with the matter. Last-minute obstacles could arise to further delay the deal, but these people said they were hopeful an agreement could be finalized shortly.

Agreement details still needed to be hammered out with General Electric Co., the largest creditor of both airlines, and with ACE Aviation Holdings Inc., parent of Air Canada. Air Canada declined to comment, and GE said it's still in talks.

The two airlines are expected to raise a total of about $500 million in new equity from Air Canada, regional carrier Air Wisconsin Airlines, two hedge funds and a rights offering, according to people familiar with the expected deal. Another $250 million would be provided in the loan from Airbus. Other fund raising, including potential sales-leasebacks of some planes, is expected to bring up the total new capital to more than $1 billion when the deal closes. The airlines are also discussing restructuring their $1 billion in loans guaranteed by the federal Air Transportation Stabilization Board and set up to provide liquidity after the Sept. 11 attacks.

But even if the two companies ultimately receive the requisite approvals from their creditors, America West shareholders, the federal government and the bankruptcy judge overseeing US Airways' reorganization, "the obstacles are huge," said Michael Roach, the founding president of America West and now a consultant for Roach & Sbarra Airline Consulting in San Francisco.

Labor is one top concern. Unions have to agree to combine their seniority lists, normally a contentious exercise, because employees with less seniority often lose out. The Air Line Pilots Association branch at US Airways is scheduled to hold a special meeting today and tomorrow to consider hiring merger counsel and investment bankers, and staffing up its merger committee. Officials at the ALPA branch at America West have already vowed to protect their members, saying in a phone message to members that these times "will either bring us together or tear us apart."

On top of that, US Airways brings to the deal much higher costs than America West, though the former has cut its expenses significantly in two bankruptcy reorganizations. The combined carrier also will face competition at three hubs from Southwest. "Southwest may see this as an opportunity to test them," Mr. Roach said.

A merger is intended to allow US Airways to fly out of its second Chapter 11 since 2002 and give America West some needed liquidity and ability to grow into a truly national airline. The marriage would combine US Airways' big East Coast presence, flights to Europe and the Caribbean, and membership in the global Star Alliance marketing team with America West's West Coast route network and lower costs. Doug Parker, America West's chief executive and a 10-year veteran there, is expected to run the company, which would be based in Tempe, Ariz., his company's current headquarters, and fly under the US Airways brand.

The combination could spark consolidation in an industry struggling with too many seats and too many players at a time when fuel is costly. US Airways has been trying to find a buyer for two years. But few investors have shown interest in putting money into US Airways as a stand-alone airline, given that it is now under assault by Southwest in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, and other low-cost carriers in Charlotte, N.C., Washington and Boston. Meanwhile, America West, which is facing a liquidity squeeze later this year, is hemmed in by Southwest in Phoenix and Las Vegas, and may be too small to have a long-term future as a stand-alone carrier.

Some wonder if Mr. Parker, whose airline has brighter short-term prospects and actually posted a first-quarter profit, is making a mistake. Jim Corridore, an equity analyst at Standard & Poor's Corp., says the America West chief "is tripling up on his risk exposure." And if for some reason the deal doesn't come off, America West would be in play and ostensibly could be gobbled up by another discounter with a strong balance sheet, a cash-rich regional airline or hedge-fund investors.

America West's market capitalization stood at $157 million yesterday. Its shares have fallen since the merger discussions were disclosed in April and now trade just above their 52-week low. America West rose eight cents to $4.43 in 4 p.m. New York Stock Exchange composite trading.

Write to Susan Carey at [email protected] and Melanie Trottman at [email protected]
Sorry, Columbia blue has posted this article in the "Bronner" thread.

Deleted by me - Jim
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BoeingBoy said:
Signals were mixed Wednesday on whether America West Airlines and US Airways will announce their merger today as planned.

But there was a clear sign an announcement could be imminent: US Airways CEO Bruce Lakefield was booked on an early morning flight to Phoenix.

AmWest deal looming


Poor Bruce. It must be killing him that he can't play any golf with that short trip to Phoenix. It's time to send him back to Sarasota with his bonus from Bronner.
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BoeingBoy said:
Sorry, Columbia blue has posted this article in the "Bronner"  thread.

Deleted by me - Jim

Awww shucks! Hey Jim didja here that Newsweek is reporting that AWA ALPA flushed the US pilot senority list down the toilet? Will there be rioting and beheadings in PIT, CLT & PHL & PHX...stay tuned... :p