Europe Airpost and Air Contractors parent ASL Aviation Group has agreed to acquire the airline operations of TNT Express, which are being divested as part of its merger with freight giant UPS.
ASL Aviation Group is 51%-owned by Compagnie Maritime Belge while the balance is held by 3P Air Freighters. The group's airline companies also include South African carrier Safair.
It will take over the entire equity of TNT Airways and Spanish affiliate Pan Air Lineas Aereas. The transfer is conditional on the UPS-TNT Express merger and will become effective immediately before the tie-up is completed. Financial details have not been disclosed.
European restrictions on foreign ownership of airlines meant that TNT Airways could not be integrated as part of the UPS merger.
"This change of ownership and control will ensure service continuity of the TNT Express operations after the completion of the proposed merger, in compliance with European Union airline ownership and control rules," says TNT.
ASL will take over all flights performed by TNT's airlines under a new service contract, becoming a third-party provider to the UPS-TNT group.
TNT Express says it does not expect the transfer to affect its Liege hub "for at least one year" after the merger, and ASL will maintain TNT's headquarters in the city.
"This is an important step towards completion of the proposed UPS-TNT Express merger and a positive outcome for the airline employees," says TNT Express interim chief Bernard Bot.
TNT adds that "almost all" employees of the airlines will stay with the carriers, except for a small number who will transfer to the Liege hub.
ASL already uses a fleet of around 90 aircraft for its operations. Group chief Hugh Flynn says the acquisition provides "new opportunities for development and growth".