Saturday, October 6, 2012

Seven ex-PLUNA CRJ-900's bought by Cosmo Airlines of Spain

Cosmo Airlines emerged as the surprise winner of the auction for the seven ex-PLUNA CR-900's put up for auction on Monday, October 1.

The Madrid-based carrier placed a bid at the opening asking price of US$ 137 million and with no other bidders stepping forward was declared the winner only seven minutes into the auction. None of the parties rumored to be interested in the CRJ-900's, such as BQB Lineas Aereas, Conviasa, CUTCSA (Uruguayan bus company) and SOL Lineas Aereas participated in the bidding.       

Cosmo made a 10% deposit of US$ 13.7 million guaranteeing the purchase with the balance due in 30 days.  However, El Pais of Uruguay reports that there have been rumors that another party made the deposit with the Banco Republica Oriental del Uruguay (the national bank) and some opposition party members believe that no deposit was made at all.  

Cosmo Airlines was formed in 2011 but did not start European charter services until July of this year with a single A320.  The Spanish airline announced that it will use the CRJ-900's to expand its charter operations in "Central and Eastern Europe".  

Questions regarding Cosmo Airlines & its Participation in the Auction

Questions surround the proceedings as Cosmos is rumored to have started with capital of only EUR 7.6 million and it reportedly has a negative net worth and liabilities of EUR 53 million, according to an analysis of its finances carried out in Spain.  It also appears to have had limited operations and does not even have a website, although one is under construction.  Most noteworthy, El Pais reports that Spanish businessman Miguel Castro Marin, the founder of Cosmo Airlines, founded another Spanish airline, Marbella Airways, in 2004, which was reportedly used for money-laundering purposes in the multi-million Euro "Malaya" corruption case in Spain.  

Further suspicions have been raised because Cosmo paid about 30% more for the planes than their estimated value by most experts.  This is in a market with no shortage of quality aircraft of that operating profile. 

Sources: El Pais Uruguay, several articles 02-05Oct12

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