Is Iberia Finally Ready For Takeoff?

An IPO looms, but the airline is coming off a summer of trouble

Not too long ago, Xavier de Irala's two-year stint as chairman of Spanish state carrier Iberia Airlines looked like the stuff of great corporate turnarounds. The 53-year-old Irala, a former colleague of John F. Welch's at General Electric Co., moved quickly to revamp the tired airline. Profits spurted to $440 million in 1998, on revenues of $4.4 billion, making Iberia one of Europe's top-performing carriers. Once spurned by the world's major airlines, the revitalized Iberia could suddenly pick its own partners, choosing British Airways PLC and American Airlines Inc. from a handful of big-name suitors.

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