Delta Air seeks stake in Transbrasil or TAM -paper
SAO PAULO, May 25 (Reuters) - U.S.-based Delta Air Lines Inc. is seeking to buy a 20-percent stake in Brazil's air companies TAM or Transbrasil, but may have to await results of a deal between the two, a local newspaper said Thursday.
Folha de S.Paulo daily newspaper quoted Jorge Fernandez, head of Delta's Latin American operations, as saying the company sought part of the promising Brazilian air market.
``The Brazilian market is a great opportunity for Delta and is our No.1 priority. If we have a sale proposal, we will sit down to negotiate,'' he said. Delta already has a code-sharing agreement with Transbrasil.
But Folha, which said Delta made an offer to buy part of Transbrasil earlier this month, also quoted a senior Transbrasil official as saying that the U.S. company would have to wait now until TAM and Transbrasil decide on the future of their partnership after April's operational accord.
Company officials were not immediately available for comment.
Although denied by TAM and Transbrasil, analysts view the operational agreement as a first step toward a merger between the third- and fourth-ranking air companies in Brazil. Folha quoted air sector sources as saying the merger could be announced in July.
Many analysts expect consolidation in the sector, which is still suffering from the January 1999 currency devaluation that raised dollar-linked fuel and leasing costs, while slashing passenger numbers.
Earlier this month, local media said SwissAir parent SAirGroup wanted to buy a big stake in at least one of Brazil's top airlines, sector leader Varig , Transbrasil or the TAM-Transbrasil alliance.
Transbrasil officials have said they hoped teaming up with Tam would give the two airlines 46 percent of domestic market against Varig's 45 percent. Varig has a fleet of 82 aircraft operating on local and international routes. TAM has 60 aircraft and Transbrasil has 22.