AMR chief says merger decision may be weeks away: FT

Sun Aug 12, 2012 11:33pm EDT

An American Airlines plane sits at its gate at O'Hare International airport in Chicago November 29, 2011. REUTERS/Frank Polich

An American Airlines plane sits at its gate at O'Hare International airport in Chicago November 29, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Frank Polich

(Reuters) - AMR Corp (AAMRQ.PK), the bankrupt parent of American Airlines, is in the middle of reviewing strategic options that include a merger and will likely make a decision with weeks, according to an interview with the company's chief executive, which was published on the Financial Times' website on Sunday.

"It's probably even a matter of weeks," the Financial Times cited AMR CEO Tom Horton as saying on the question of when a decision on a merger would come. "We're in the middle of that right now."

The third-largest U.S. carrier has begun to review strategic alternatives, including a merger with US Airways Group Inc LCC.N, to determine whether merging with a rival will generate more in recoveries for American's creditors than going it alone.

AMR told its staff last month it had sent a non-disclosure agreement to US Airways for its review of a possible merger and that it had also dispatched similar agreements to other potential merger parties.

AMR filed for bankruptcy in November 2011, citing untenable labor costs. It won court approval last month to extend through December 28 its exclusive right to present a plan to emerge from bankruptcy.

"It may be an attractive option under the right circumstances," the Financial Times quoted Horton as saying on the possibility of merging with US Airways. "Our view (earlier this year) was not that that combination was unwise. It was that that was not the right time to discuss it."

Horton added that there were potentially meaningful revenue synergies from a combination with US Airways, but stressed that other combinations would be considered and that remaining independent was also an option, according to the interview.

The AMR CEO was clear that after any merger, his airline would remain part of oneworld, the airline code-sharing alliance centered on International Airlines Group (ICAG.L), the parent of British Airways. US Airways is a member of Star Alliance, led by United Airlines (UAL.N) and Deutsche Lufthansa AG (LHAG.DE).

IAG said on Sunday it may consider taking a stake in American Airlines if American welcomed such a move.

(Reporting by Greg Roumeliotis in New York, Editing by Gary Crosse)