Friday, August 3, 2012

PLUNA Update: Several Entities Reportedly Interested in Auction of PLUNA Routes & Aircraft

Reports of several parties interested in the auction of the former PLUNA routes and aircraft have surfaced in the last two weeks. 

The PLUNA employees union claims interest on the part of Brazilian businessmen, an investor fund based in Madrid, and the Chilean airline LAN.    

Al Ahli Holding Group

Dubai-based Al Ahli Holding Group, a powerful consortium of several companies, presented a letter to the Uruguayan government months ago indicating an interest in taking over PLUNA, including its employees and debt, but has not received a response, according to the group's representative in Uruguay, Enrique Gorgas.  The group is looking to own an airline in Latin America motivating it to take a serious look at PLUNA.   Ahli Holding Group CEO, Mohammed Kammas was due to meet with undisclosed parties in Madrid on July 24 to discuss the next steps, according to Gorgas.

Other reports speak of at least seven parties interested in the auction that have requested information on the "auction process, matters related to the employees, and the transactions involved in becoming the official national carrier".     

Employee Cooperative

Cesar Iroldi, president of the PLUNA employee union OTAU-OFP, disclosed that the union has talked with two financial investors about a US$ 200 million loan to the union for it to bid at the auction as a "cooperative".  The investors would not actually participate in the management of the new airline nor hold equity in it.  

Sol Uruguay

Sol Uruguay, a company formed to fly the Montevideo - Madrid route (which it did not operate) is also reported to be interested in the auction but has said that the opening price of US$ 135 million is too high.  The company commented that "The aircraft are appropriate for some routes, but not for short legs like the Montevideo - Buenos Aires air bridge." which was PLUNA's main route and would be its successor's too. 


The Uruguayan bus company Cutcsa is also looking at participating in the auction of PLUNA's assets.  Cutcsa president Juan Salgado has said the company is analyzing the possibility as an opportunity that should be at least looked at.  Were Cutcsa to acquire PLUNA's former assets, it might take on the ex-PLUNA employees on something resembling a cooperative, such as the company has with its bus employees, where the workers share in the profits and decision-making but also in the risks.  Salgado concluded that he would like "as a Uruguayan that PLUNA be owned by Uruguayans with Uruguayan workers that see the airline as the national carrier".    

It remains to be seen how many of the above "interested parties" will actually participate in the auction.

Sources:  El Pais Uruguay 10Jul12, 18Jul12,  20Jul12, 22Jul12
              Aviacion News 19Jul12

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