LAN, TAM merger clear for takeoff: source

SAO PAULO Mon Dec 12, 2011 6:17pm EST

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - The merger between Chilean airline LAN LAN.SN and Brazilian counterpart TAM TAMM4.SA is likely to win approval with restrictions from Brazil's antitrust agency Cade, a high level official in the regulator said on Monday.

Cade is due to vote on Wednesday on the merger of the two Latin American carriers, which would create one of the world's biggest airlines if combined.

"The tendency is for approval with some conditions," the Cade official said under anonymity.

He added that although the case is due to come before the full vote of the regulator this week, it was still possible that the process could be delayed by officials requesting additional time to consider the case.

In August, two other deliberative bodies, the Seae and SDE that consider merger and acquisition cases such as this, recommended that Cade approve the merger without restrictions. Cade is not required to follow these recommendations but tends to do so in most cases.

In August of 2010, the two airlines announced that they would combine to make the largest carrier in Latin America, which would be called Latam.

The deal was already approved by the antitrust tribunal in Chile with some restrictions.

Executives of LAN and TAM said they expected the merger to be concluded by the first quarter of 2012.

(Writing by Reese Ewing; editing by Carol Bishopric)

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