Photographer: Alejandra Parra/Bloomberg

Delta, United Said to Near Avianca Bids Amid Elliott Talks

  • Colombian airline mulls options including sale of control
  • Carrier said to seek about $500 million from potential partner

Avianca Holdings SA is studying options including the sale of a controlling stake and is set to receive bids next week from suitors including Delta Air Lines Inc. and United Continental Holdings Inc., people familiar with the matter said.

The offers, due by Nov. 9, may include about $500 million in new capital for Bogota-based Avianca, plus a purchase of common stock from current shareholders, said the people, who asked not to be named because the talks are private. Copa Holdings SA also is expected to present a bid.

Avianca has been seeking a partner to help shore up its balance sheet and support growth. The carrier is controlled by brothers German and Jose Efromovich, who have used the majority of their shares as collateral to borrow funds from Elliott Management Corp., Bloomberg News reported in July. Elliott, controlled by billionaire Paul Singer, is active in the airline’s search for partners and has met with the potential suitors, the people said.

The Colombian carrier declined to comment, as did Delta, United and Copa. Elliott didn’t reply to requests for comment.

Avianca’s American Depositary Receipts jumped 7.5 percent to $6.85 at the close in New York, the biggest gain in more than four months.

Airline Control

Avianca would consider offers for a controlling stake, the people said. Alternatively, control of the airline may end up being divided among the new bidder, the Efromovich brothers, and Kingsland Holdings Ltd., a partner in the current control group. Kingsland is controlled by the Kriete family, which combined Taca, a Central American airline, with Avianca in 2010.

Colombia’s Semana magazine had reported Oct. 29 that the Efromovich brothers wouldn’t be willing to sell control, with bidders instead set to reach a 30 percent to 40 percent stake. Avianca, with a market value of about $800 million, carried 58 percent of Colombia’s domestic passengers this year through August.

The company’s indebtedness is one of the key risks, and its focus on curbing debt and slowing capacity expansion is “welcome,” Renato Mimica, an analyst at BTG Pactual, said in an Oct. 24 report. Net adjusted debt fell to 6.3 times earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, amortization and aircraft leasing costs as of June 30, down from 6.8 times at the end of last year.

The potential Avianca deal is unfolding at the same time as the Efromovich brothers have faced challenges on another front. Their Oceanair Linhas Aereas SA, which operates as Brazilian airline Avianca Brasil, missed more than $4 million in lease payments on an Airbus Group SE A330 jetliner, according to a lawsuit filed by Wells Fargo & Co.

— With assistance by Fabiola Moura

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