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Mexican investor group emerges as new owners of Mexicana

A group of Mexican investors has acquired Mexicana and the bankrupt carrier's parent company.

The new investor group, known as Tenedora K, says in a 20 August statement that it now owns a 95% stake in Nuevo Grupo Aeronautico with Mexican pilots union ASPA owning the remaining 5%. Tenedora K says Nuevo Grupo Aeronautico is the holding company for Mexicana as well as regional carriers Mexicana Click and Mexicana Link.

Nuevo Group Aeronautico, also known as Group Mexicana, was previously owned by a group of investors led by Mexican hotel chain Grupo Posadas. Tenedora K is not disclosing how much it paid for the company but in a separate statement Grupo Posadas says it sold its 30% stake for a "symbolic" amount.

Grupo Posadas initially acquired Mexicana and Click when the airlines were privatised in 2005. In recent years Grupo Posadas' stake was reduced to 30% as other Mexican investors were added.

A Tenedora K spokesman confirms Mexicana CEO Manuel Borja left the carrier at the end of last week. He says Tenedora K plans to announce a successor as well as new directors for the company later this week.

Borja has been in charge of Mexicana and its parent company since 2007, when he was promoted from the CFO position. Borja led an ambitious expansion strategy which included the launch of transatlantic services and the acquisition of several new aircraft types. Last year he also oversaw Mexicana's ascension into Oneworld and the launch of Bombardier CRJ200 operator Link.

But Mexicana mainline incurred large losses over the last two years, prompting it to file for bankruptcy in Mexican and US courts early this month. The carrier has since returned several of its aircraft and slashed capacity, discontinuing nine routes while reducing frequency on others.

Click and Link were not part of the bankruptcy filing but have been acquired by Tenedora K along with mainline Mexicana.

The Tenedora K group includes Mexican real estate company Industrial Omega and Mexican insurance firm Grupo Arizan. US-based global private equity firm Advent, which emerged last week as one of several potential buyers that was negotiating with the carrier's unions, helped broker the deal. But Advent is not part of the Tenedora K consortium.

"At this point Advent has been working and advising but has not invested any money," says the Tenedora K spokesman, who also represents Advent.

Mexicana's previous executive team and owners had said union concessions would be needed to successfully restructure the carrier. The carrier's unions met last week to discuss with potential new investors a possible restructuring, including potential concessions in exchange for an ownership stake.

The Tenedora K/Advent spokesman says these negotiations continue and the 5% stake now owned by ASPA is simply a holdover from what the union already owned.

Union leaders have indicated in local media reports that Tenedora K is looking to cut Mexicana's fleet and workforce by about 50% as part of the carrier's restructuring. Union leaders also have been quoted as saying the new owners intend to use the next 100 days to adjust Mexicana's operation, relook at the carrier's long-term strategy and work with creditors including leasing companies and banks.

Tenedora K is not yet ready to comment on these reports. In its statement Tenedora K calls its acquisition of the 95% stake only "a first step" as it still needs to restructure the company and forge new agreements with Mexicana's unions. It says Tenedora K is a new holding company that will be used as a vehicle to recapitalise Mexicana, Click and Link with the goal of resolving the "critical financial and operating situation" the company currently faces.

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