Does Azul really want LATAM? That’s the question we all had this week after Azul’s CEO, John Rodgerson, said the company is ready to make an offer if LATAM creditors fail to agree on a restructuring plan. 

What’s going on here?

Azul has been pointing out its interest in acquiring LATAM for quite some time now. John Rodgerson started saying maybe Azul should buy LATAM Brazil, making a heavyweight carrier in the making and putting GOL Linhas Aereas in a difficult position. 

Domestically, Azul has a 35.18% market share, and LATAM has a 32.83%, according to Brazil’s latest stats. We’re using ASKs here. In terms of passengers carried, Azul has had 15.8 million domestic travelers in 2021, a 38.32% share, followed by LATAM with 12.6 million (30.51%). Joining those two airlines would create a massive player in the Brazilian market. 

Nevertheless, Rodgerson has now increased the reach of Azul’s proposal. The airline is ready to acquire the whole LATAM Airlines Group if the Chilean-based company fails to successfully submit a Reorganization Plan under its Chapter 11 bankruptcy process. 

In an interview with the Chilean newspaper Diario Financiero, Rodgerson said, 

“We know exactly what we will offer. We would buy the whole asset. I believe that the group has a lot of value, and we’re not thinking of splitting or selling divisions.”

Could Azul really get LATAM?

That’s the million-dollar question, right? So many steps would have to go wrong for LATAM (or right for Azul) before Azul could even think of acquiring LATAM.

LATAM currently has until November 26 to present its Plan of Reorganization. Azul believes LATAM hasn’t been able to submit its Plan because the management and creditors can’t reach an agreement. Nonetheless, when a multinational company like LATAM is in a financial reorganization, it will take some time. That doesn’t mean the airline is in trouble. 

So, if LATAM gets to an agreement with its creditors, Azul wouldn’t be able to present a plan to acquire the company, said Rodgerson. “But there are signs telling us that they are not reaching an agreement; that’s why they are still requesting extensions of the exclusivity period. If LATAM’s management doesn’t want Azul, the easiest way to do it is to give the creditors what they want, which is to recover as much as possible,” he added. 

Let’s think for a minute that Azul gets its way and can pitch an acquisition plan to LATAM creditors. 

According to Cirium’s database, in January 2020, LATAM and Azul were number one and two in terms of flights offered in the Latin American region. In terms of seats, LATAM was number one and Azul number three, just behind GOL. LATAM had 20.3% of all the seats offered in Latin America and Azul an 8%. Look at this map to see the destinations both companies served in 2020. 

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The next question would be if the regulatory entities were to approve Azul and LATAM’s merger. That’s a big if. Chile, for example, wasn’t too convinced of allowing LATAM’s Joint Venture with American Airlines because it would have created a monster too big. In the end, Chile didn’t let the Joint Venture happen. Wouldn’t it be the same for a LATAM-Azul merger?

So, what’s going to happen?

Does Azul really want LATAM? Azul acquiring LATAM is not essential for the future of the company. Nor the other way around. Nevertheless, if given the opportunity, Azul could definitely try to consolidate its position in a region that has seen its share of mergers in the past (LAN + TAM, and Avianca + TACA, for example).

There’s also the possibility that Azul is only burdening LATAM by making these claims.

For now, nothing is happening. LATAM keeps on denying that any part of the company is on sale. Azul will keep on sending these messages every time it can. And we will keep following a story that has become very interesting in the Latin American region. 

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