Guy Norris/LONDON

The Argentinian Government has suspended for six months a 1994 law allowing foreign ownership and control of Argentinian carriers.

The move is apparently aimed at blocking a takeover of ailing Aerolineas Argentinas by LanChile, which had expressed an interest in taking a share in the Buenos Aires-based carrier.

The action follows a recent decision by Spanish state holding company SEPI, the airline's part-owner, to assemble a rescue plan after proposals by American Airlines parent AMR were rejected. LanChile, meanwhile, is reported to have filed papers in Santiago to form an operation called LanArgentina.

Chilean plans to become involved in running Aerolineas, put forward when American was managing the Argentinian carrier, had earlier been thwarted when SEPI rejected the scheme.

The picture is complicated by a bid for control of the airline by its own pilots' union, APLA. The group says it is close to a deal with the Inter American Development Bank to secure financing for acquisition of up to 51% of the airline. Employees own 10% of Aerolineas under an arrangement orchestrated by SEPI.

SEPI holds 42% of Andes Holding (Merrill Lynch controlling 49% and Bankers Trust 9%), which in turn owns 80% of Interinvest, 85% owner of Aerolineas. The remaining 15% is divided between the government, with 5%, and the workforce, which holds the balance.

The other Interinvest partners are Iberia and American, each with 10%. American has retained its share, despite the rejection of earlier rescue proposals.

Details of the SEPI rescue package, which includes $70 million of fresh capital, are not now expected until next month, several weeks behind schedule, prompting speculation that the recent moves by LanChile and APLA have created new complications. A teaming of the two is a possibility.

Source: Flight International