David Knibb/SEATTLE

Cintra, Mexico's airline holding company, could be sold as early as the third quarter of this year, although disputes continue about how this will be achieved.

Vicente Corta, executive secretary of the bank protection institute (IPAB), which holds most of Cintra's shares, hopes to reach an accord by July that would allow the government to sell its 55% stake.

In a debate that has grown more heated, the secretary of transport and communications (SCT) continues to insist that Cintra should be sold intact, while the Mexican competition commission (CFC) remains adamant that Aeromexico and Mexicana be divided into separate companies.

IPAB is anxious to unload its interest in Cintra as part of the government's plan to lower its debt burden by 7% this year. Exactly how IPAB will settle the dispute between the SCT and CFC remains unclear. The two agencies have been deadlocked for years on this issue.

The SCT contends that a united Cintra is needed to give Mexico's carriers the strength to compete with foreign airlines. The CFC argues that it approved the merger of Aeromexico and Mexicana under Cintra only on condition that the airlines continued to compete, but it says that instead that have jointly monopolised local aviation.

Those who favour selling Cintra intact have mounted what appears to be an orchestrated campaign to garner support. After months of silence, reports began to appear in Mexican newspapers on an almost daily basis in late May detailing how much capital Cintra needs for renewing it fleet and for other upgrades, and how the holding company urgently needs a public float to raise these funds.

The effect of this campaign is unclear, but the outcome of Mexico's presidential election, to be held on 3 July, may lead to the introduction of a new set of cabinet officials who may have to go through this debate again.

Source: Airline Business