17 February 2008

Stop the Madness - I think I want to get off... thoughts on Merger Mania

The increasingly shrill noise of Airline Mergers is one that is not new to readers of this blog.

But lets consider the realities of the situation. Lets say that DL and NW announce their intended nuptials this week. Getting the proposition ready to take to the alter is going to take at least another 3 months. If during that time another airline pair who have been secretly dating and now decide to announce that they too intend to get hitched, then the US Congress will demand hearings - most likely in both houses. So lets add another month for that. By now it will be summer and there will be lots of focus on electioneering. There are a heck of a lot of seats up for grabs not just the presidency. It is highly likely that there will be an effective standstill. No one is going to be keen to approve this. So I would put the chances of a regulatory decision before the election as about 50:50. If it is more than one pair - sorry but Japanese style weddings in industries do not go down well, so expect a full round of investigations pushing the decision even further out. But as we know there are others who would want to put in their oar on regulatory approval. Consider for example any protest that may be filed in say Europe. As any one of these deals will have an impact on the transatlantic runs - dominance could be the order of the day. An AF-KL-DL-NW joint venture could be a pretty juicy prospect for Monsieur Barrot to look at.

Oh and just one thought. One of the earliest casualties in a DL+NW merger would be the CVG hub. CVG is technically in Kentucky but it serves Ohio's biggest city. That means for those of us young enough to remember is a crucial state in a closely fought general election. In the case of a CO-UA merger Columbus would be an early victim. Also in Ohio.

Oh and just another thought. Chairman of the Aviation oversight committee in the US Congress is one Mr Jim Oberstar (17th Term congressman) who happens to hail from Minnesota. If the NW deal goes through - Delta isn't leaving Atlanta so I guess its Sayonara Egan (aka MSP). That is not going to happen without a fight.

The list could go on....

Point being don't expect this to happen fast. It faces huge regulatory hurdles and legal challenges. This is highly likely to be a hot cup of Sake that will be passed to the New Administration of McCabee or Clintama.

But there again it does provide lots of cannon fodder for pundits.

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