Uruguay's Pluna continues to talk to several potential new strategic investors and could conclude a deal within the next month to sell a minority stake in the carrier.
Pluna and its majority owner, Leadgate, have been in talks over the last year with several airlines from outside Uruguay, including Canada's Jazz, that are interested in participating in a long planned capital increase. Uruguayan media last week reported Pluna is now close to finalising a deal with Jazz that would result in the Canadian regional carrier taking a 20% to 25% stake.
An industry source, however, say Pluna is still talking to several potential strategic partners with the aim of completing a deal by the beginning of March.
Jazz declined to comment, explaining that "we do not comment on our business development initiatives".
Pluna also declined comment.
Pluna did, however, confirm it took delivery of an additional Bombardier CRJ900 late last month, giving it eight of the type including one that is now subleases to Argentinean sister carrier AeroVIP.
Leadgate first said early in 2009 that it was looking to add a strategic investor as part of a recapitalisation to help fund the expansion of Pluna's CRJ900 fleet from seven to 12 aircraft. Late last year Leadgate told ATI talks with potential investors continued and in the meantime it was looking to acquire two to three additional CRJ900s to support near-term expansion at Pluna and AeroVIP.
AeroVIP, which was grounded for four years until the sale of a 60% stake to Leadgate, re-launched services last September using one of Pluna's seven CRJ900s. Pluna says the aircraft delivered late last month will initially be used in its own network but later this year will be transferred to AeroVIP.
Leadgate currently owns 75% of Pluna. The Uruguayan government, which privatised the carrier in 2007, owns the remaining 25% stake.
Jazz is a logical partner for Pluna as Jazz also operates CRJs and helped the Uruguayan carrier in 2008 with its transition to an all-CRJ900 fleet. Last year Jazz confirmed it held some "exploratory talks" with Pluna in 2008 but said it was no longer looking to pursue a stake in the carrier. While it appears Jazz is now re-examining Pluna as part of its overall divestment strategy it is not clear yet if it will be able to conclude a deal with Leadgate.
Source: Air Transport Intelligence news