Uruguay's president Jose Mujica has admitted that the planned relaunch of bankrupt Pluna as an employee-owned, state-backed firm may be unrealistic.
In parallel, Juan Carlos Lopez Mena, the owner of Uruguay-based ATR 72 operator BQB Lineas Aereas, has quietly agreed to deposit up to $13.6 million to negotiate the potential acquisition of seven Bombardier CRJ900 jets formerly operated by Pluna and now owned by the Uruguayan state.
Last year, the government tried to sell the aircraft through two unsuccessful tender processes.
A direct legal successor of Pluna might face problems particularly in Brazil, where former employees of Varig, which owned Pluna until its own bankruptcy, have obtained court orders to obtain massive severance payments, allowing them to seize any subsisting assets from former Varig subsidiaries, which could include Pluna's aircraft operating to Brazil.
Last October, Spain's Cosmo Airlines made a surprise offer for the aircraft, but it soon became clear that they had acted as an intermediary for Lopez Mena, who has now agreed to pay the deposit left unpaid by Cosmo.
BQB has been actively looking into leasing larger jet aircraft.
According to a source close to Lopez Mena, the judicial risk for Pluna's assetts in Brazil may have helped to convince the left-winged Uruguayan government to stop backing the employee-owned model for relaunching Pluna. According to the source, the government might now be willing to offer the seven aircraft at a price "below $100 million" to the formal winner of the tender, Cosmo, which has transferred its right to BQB.
BQB Lineas Aereas is operating a network of flights to Argentina and Southern Brazil and hopes to acquire additional traffic rights once Pluna's route authorities expire in June.