As one of the shrewest airline bosses around, it comes as no surprise to see ACE Aviation Holdings chairman Robert Milton taking advantage of merger and consolidation mania across the border by talking up the prospects of a sale of ACE’s greatest asset – Air Canada.
Globe and Mail reporter Brett Jang was spot on describing Robert’s words to a conference call as “putting a for sale sign on Air Canada“.
“In my view, as I watch the U.S. airlines scurrying around to merge, anybody that actually ties up with Air Canada gets a unique piece of geography relative to the way the US guys would split it up,” Milton said, according to the Globe report.
Now in Milton’s grand scheme of things in creating the ACE structure to hold and then sell off the bits that made up the Air Canada group – Jazz the regional carrier, Aeroplan the loyalty programme, Air Canada Technical Services the overhaul arm – flogging off the airline was always part of the plan.
Milton said that several investors have been sniffing around Air Canada in recent times. ACE has a 75% stake in Air Canada.
It is no secret that Milton wants to do himself out of a job in the not too distant future by dissolving ACE as it sells off its assets.
Whether that sell off will see Air Canada find a US airline partner is a good question (and foreigners can only hold 25% of the voting stock of the airline at present anyhow).
But Milton is encouraging his US cousins to take a look: “I think it would make a lot of sense for a US airline to look to Air Canada.”
If it does work out this way, let’s hope the experience is better than the most recent attempt at cross-border linkage.
The last US carrier to get involved north of the border was American Airlines, which had a 25% for a while and was interested in more but foiled by the ownership restriction among other things.