Monday, October 29, 2012

PLUNA CRJ-900's - Part 2 - Cosmo Out, BQB Out, Air Nostrum in ? Conviasa in ? Molinari in ?

The saga continues.....

12Oct12:  BQB Announces Intention to Buy Aircraft Purchase Rights from Cosmo

Lopez Mena announced that BQB intended to buy the US$ 13.7 million guarantee that was made on the seven CRJ-900's and acquire the aircraft outright.  Ismael Fuentes, spokesman of the former PLUNA employee union Pit-Cnt, said that the workers opposed the BQB purchase perceiving it as an attempt to transform Uruguayan flag carrier airline service into a private monopoly.    

13Oct12:  Legislators Accuse BQB of Manipulating Purchase of CRJ-900's to Form Monopoly

Uruguayan senators and congressmen led by Communist Party Senator Eduardo Lorier claimed that BQB owner Lopez Mena was behind the purchase of the CRJ-900's all along through his association with Cosmo Airlines and is trying to form an air/sea private monopoly through the two companies owned by him; BQB Lineas Aereas and Buquebus ferry lines that carry the great majority of passenger and vehicular traffic across the Rio de la Plata between Uruguay and Argentina.

15Oct12:  Senator Lorier meets with Venezuelan Transport Minister regarding New Carrier

Senator Lorier traveled to Venezuela and met with the country's Transport Minister about investing in a new Uruguayan flag carrier with the participation of former PLUNA employees.  He reported that Bandes (the Venezuelan state bank) was interested in being a partner in the new enterprise, presumably with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez' blessing.     

16Oct12:  Anti-BQB Sentiment Builds & Government Evaluates Annulling Auction

Senator Lorier continued his attacks on BQB owner Juan Carlos Lopez Mena saying that Lopez Mena intentionally tried to demean the value of the seven aircraft to the detriment of the Uruguayan national interest by saying they were worth at most US$ 80 million when "they were actually worth the US$ 137 million" auction price.   

He went on to say that a businessman with Lopez Mena's ethics should not be in charge of the Uruguayan national carrier and even said to Lopez Mena "withdraw, or we will withdraw you" (from the airline project) which was widely interpreted as a threat, even though Lorier claimed that was not his intention.  

Additionally the Uruguayan government said it was considering annulling the auction altogether since the "winner" Cosmo was not going to pay for the planes and a solution to the situation seemed further away with each passing day.  

18Oct12:  Lopez Mena Withdraws from Purchase of CRJ-900's

With the former PLUNA employee union members and many sectors of the government against him, plus the prospect of the government annulling the auction, Lopez Mena decided to withdraw BQB from the process of putting together an airline to replace PLUNA, including desisting from the purchase of the US$ 13.7 million down payment "ticket" to the seven CRJ-900's.  

18Oct12:  Molinari Expresses Interest in the Six Leased CRJ-900's

Carlos Molinari changed his position somewhat saying that he would be willing to operate just the six leased CRJ-900's (instead of all 13 planes) and another Uruguayan carrier could be formed to operate the seven owned planes sold at auction.  His investment group had even started negotiations with the Canadian bank EDC and CRJ-900 manufacturer Bombardier to lease the six aircraft.

26Oct12:  Molinari Reverses Position, Interested in Buying Seven-Owned CRJ-900's

With the withdrawal of BQB's interest in the seven auctioned CRJ-900's, Carlos Molinari indicated that he would be interested in acquiring these aircraft after all.  

The new airline could be up-and-running in 60 days with a first "emergency" phase to cover the summer months with five or six aircraft serving the most important destinations.  Over time more aircraft and destinations would be added with more employees being taken on in addition to the initial 200 workers.  Molinari's group foresaw that the carrier would be operating at full strength in about one year.         

Sources: El Pais Uruguay, various articles 13-27Oct12         

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