BUENOS AIRES, July 11 Spanish travel firm
Marsans, which controls airline Aerolineas Argentinas, has
accused Argentina's government of trying to force it out of the
company, a newspaper reported on Friday.
The center-left administration of President Cristina
Fernandez asked a judge on Thursday to appoint an administrator
at the airline in what was seen as a possible step toward a
state takeover of the company.
Aerolineas, which is behind on June salary payments, is
plagued by strikes and complaints about poor service. It also
faces growing debt under state-controlled fares despite
subsidized jet fuel.
Gerardo Diaz Ferran, a Spanish businessman who jointly
controls Marsans, was quoted as telling Argentine daily La
Nacion that the Argentine government was "not only driving us
out of the company, it's doing something much more serious than
excluding us." He declined to elaborate.
Earlier this year, Marsans reached a preliminary agreement
to cut its stake in Aerolineas to 35 percent from 95 percent,
including selling sizable shares to the government and an
Argentine businessman. The state currently holds 5 percent.
However, Diaz Ferran told La Nacion that the government had
failed to keep its end of the deal.
"We've accepted everything they asked us for ... they're
the ones that aren't fulfilling (the accord) now," he was
quoted as saying. "Our aim is to sit down and talk in order to
make sure (these) commitments are fulfilled."
Analysts say Thursday's move by the government could signal
another step toward what Argentine media dub the
"Argentinization" of Aerolineas, meaning it could be bought by
the state or by an investor considered an ally of Fernandez and
her husband and predecessor as president, Nestor Kirchner.
Marsans bought Aerolineas in 2001 when the Argentine
company was bankrupt. Aerolineas has 80 percent of the domestic
flights in the country, and its main competitor is Chile's LAN
Airlines LAN.SN (LFL.N).
(Reporting by Helen Popper; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)