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Aero Continente set to buy Ecuadorian carrier

JACKSON FLORES / RIO DE JANEIRO

Peruvian airline Aero Continente is on the verge of purchasing Ecuatoriana de Aviación, Ecuador's struggling flag carrier.

Aero Continente has been competing with Chilean flag carrier LanChile to acquire the carrier from Ecuatoriana's owners, the Ecuadorian government (49.9%) and Brazilian airline VASP (50.1%). Aero Continente wants to acquire 69.95% of Ecuatoriana's stock. It will provide working capital, and three Boeing 737-200s for domestic services and three Boeing 767-200s for European and US routes. Aero Continente expects a government decision for the $35 million deal within the next month.

The purchase of Ecuatoriana would further Aero Continente's plan to set up subsidiaries throughout Latin America. The first subsidiary, Aero Continente Dominicana, was established in the Dominican Republic in February under a $15 million programme, and launched its first service, Santo Domingo-Lima, on 17 May. Aero Continente Dominicana will receive three 737-200s this year and expects to add services to Caracas, Venezuela; Curaçao in the Dutch Antilles; Havana, Cuba; and Paramaribo, Surinam, before the end of the year. Aero Continente intends to establish a hub at Santo Domingo for services in Latin America, and to the Caribbean, Europe and the USA, while sources suggest it is looking at establishing affiliates in Argentina, Bolivia and Venezuela.

Meanwhile, the Peruvian parent has taken delivery of one 767-200 and expects a further three 767-200/300s next month, enabling it to fly to Europe and the USA. The launch of Lima-Madrid services, planned for early July, has been postponed due to route licence complications. But it has received US Department of Transportation approval to launch services to Los Angeles, Miami and New York.

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