In what might prove the biggest cross-border airline merger ever between two Latin American airlines, Chile’s LAN and Brazil’s TAM plan to form the world’s 10th largest carrier (in terms of passenger numbers) under a non-binding memorandum of understanding signed August 13. The new group, to operate as LATAM Airlines Group, would include LAN Airlines and its affiliates in Peru, Argentina and Ecuador; LAN Cargo and its affiliates; TAM Lineas Aereas S.A., TAM Mercosur and all other holdings of LAN and TAM.
The all-stock transaction would consolidate the economic interests of LAN and TAM under a single parent while satisfying the foreign ownership and control requirements of each country where they operate. TAM shareholders would receive nine-tenths of a share of common stock of LATAM for each share of TAM.
LATAM would retain its listing in the Santiago stock exchange and its listing in the New York Stock Exchange and plans to list its shares in the Bovespa in Brazil.
Within the group, TAM would continue to operate as a Brazilian company with its own structure. The current holdings of LAN Airlines S.A. would operate as an independent business unit within the group (and be referred to as LAN Airlines). Each airline within the group would maintain its current headquarters and governance structure.
The new group says it expects to achieve annual “synergies” of $400 million through alignment of passenger networks, growth in cargo operations and cost efficiencies. The two airlines carried a combined 45 million passengers and 832,000 tons of cargo last year. They registered combined revenues of $8.5 billion. Together, they will fly a fleet of 220 airplanes to 115 destinations in 23 countries and employ 40,000 people.
The link between two of South America’s largest airlines should only reinforce the notion that Mercosur, the South American customs union, has begun to realize its potential after years of setbacks, particularly between its two largest members–Brazil and Argentina. Chile, Bolivia, Colombia and Ecuador remain associate members, while Venezuela aims to become a full member, pending approval by the parliaments of the four original members–Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay.
Officials expect trade among Mercosur’s four original members and Venezuela to total some $41 billion this year, compared with just $9 billion in 2002.