Other Solutions to the Airline Merger Case

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...
Before you go close icon

Today's coverage of the airline industry is dominated by the merger trial surrounding US Airways and American Airlines parent company AMR . So far, most coverage has centered on three potential solutions.

Two of the solutions would come from the court. The airlines would win and be able to merge in one situation, while the Department of Justice would prevail in the other, by blocking a merger. A third solution comes about from an out-of-court settlement between the airlines, the DOJ, and the states that joined the lawsuit. In this situation, the airlines would be allowed to merge with additional conditions.

But I believe it's important to consider additional potential solutions for US Airways and AMR. Let's examine a few of them.


The Oneworld solution
While the current plans center around US Airways and AMR's desire for a full integration, this solution would allow some of the merger benefits but not all of them.

US Airways has become somewhat of a third wheel in the Star Alliance after Continental Airlines joined the alliance in the merger that formed United Continental Holdings in 2010. As a result, it makes a lot of sense that US Airways would join the Oneworld alliance alongside American Airlines.

Under the current merger plan, this would effectively happen since US Airways and American Airlines would be integrated and the new airline would be part of Oneworld. However, an alternative plan could allow for US Airways to join Oneworld in lieu of a full merger.

In that situation, US Airways may be allowed to take an equity stake in AMR, considering US Airways' strong cash position and AMR's need for capital as it restructures and emerges from bankruptcy on its own. Depending on the size of the equity stake US Airways would take in AMR, it may be possible that current AMR common shareholders would see some return on their investment. However, because US Airways wouldn't be able to supply as much in terms of shares or capital than it would in a full merger, the fate of AMR common shareholders would be in question.

Airlines have used alliances to get around merger restrictions regarding cross-border ownership. United Continental and Air Canada wouldn't be allowed to merge under current rules because of international ownership restrictions. However, since both airlines are in the Star Alliance, they can sell seats on each others' flights.

The mini-American solution
This solution may be reached in a DOJ settlement or as part of an asset exchange or divestment. Much of the DOJ's concerns originate from a concern involving a small number of competitors in the market. Under this solution, US Airways and AMR would be allowed to merge but would have to form a separate smaller carrier out of routes that the DOJ fears the new American Airlines Group would otherwise monopolize. This mini-American Airlines would be designed to provide competition on routes where fears of a lack of competition currently exist.

Unlike the Oneworld solution, AMR common shareholders are far more likely to recover value here. Most likely, the current share exchange rates in the merger plan would be kept. The new American Airlines Group may have less value total, reducing the value of AMR common shares. However, that could be partially mitigated since the merged airline could raise some cash from the sale of the mini-American, whether through an IPO or sale to an investment group.

More possibilities
Airline investors should continue to watch the news surrounding this megamerger and weigh the chances of seeing some unconventional solutions.

2 airlines without merger uncertainty
Warren Buffett has claimed that investing in airlines is a surefire way to lose your hard-earned cash. But two airlines are breaking all the rules by keeping costs low and avoiding direct competition -- leading to enviable profits. Click here to learn how these two airlines are leading a revolution in the industry, and discover whether they can keep delivering big gains for shareholders!

The article Other Solutions to the Airline Merger Case originally appeared on Fool.com.

Alexander MacLennan owns shares of Air Canada and AMR and also has options on US Airways. This article is not an endorsement to buy or sell any security and does not constitute professional investment advice. Always do your own due diligence before buying or selling any security. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Copyright © 1995 - 2013 The Motley Fool, LLC. All rights reserved. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Read Full Story

Want more news like this?

Sign up for Finance Report by AOL and get everything from business news to personal finance tips delivered directly to your inbox daily!

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.

From Our Partners

20 Folks Recall Shocking Interview Moments That Made Them NOT Want the Job 20 Folks Recall Shocking Interview Moments That Made Them NOT Want the Job
Man Suspects His Wife Is Cheating On Him - Then His Daughter Reveals What's Really Going Man Suspects His Wife Is Cheating On Him - Then His Daughter Reveals What's Really Going
Nature Gets Revenge On Safari Hunter Who Killed Elephants And Lions For Sport Nature Gets Revenge On Safari Hunter Who Killed Elephants And Lions For Sport