US private equity firm Texas Pacific Group has expressed interest in launching a takeover bid for Iberia.

TPG has requested access to company information on Iberia with a view to making a public offer to acquire all of the Spanish carrier's shares at a price of €3.60 ($4.88) per share. This values the company at €3.4 billion. Iberia chief executive Fernando Conte says the carrier has asked TPG to provide details of its consortium partners to make it easier for Iberia's board to consider the offer.

Iberia's board of directors in late February authorised Conte to provide company information to any qualified potential investors who showed an interest in acquiring the airline. "Iberia does not rule out the possibility of considering any deal that would benefit the company, its shareholders and its workers," says the carrier.

Speculation has been rife over possible takeover offers for the airline, which also has a stake in Amadeus and a maintenance business. Iberia's oneworld alliance partner British Airways, which already holds a 10% stake in the airline, has retained investment bank UBS to advise it on the future of its Iberia stake. It says it is mulling over options including the disposal of its shareholding. BA chief executive Willie Walsh says the carrier has no plans to increase its 10% shareholding in Iberia "at the moment".

"We won't buy just because someone else wants to," says Walsh, pointing to "past mistakes" in airline consolidation and citing as an example Swissair's campaign of acquisitions that ultimately led to the former flag carrier's demise.

Star Alliance carrier Lufthansa has not ruled out the possibility of making a play for Iberia. But Lufthansa chairman Wolfgang Mayrhuber says that market speculation had driven Iberia's share price to a point at which it is "not affordable" for the German carrier. "Given the current price, we are not able to integrate such a company," Mayrhuber says. Iberia is seen as an attractive partner for Europe's major carriers because of its strong Latin American network.

Source: Airline Business