| BUENOS AIRES
BUENOS AIRES Nov 21 An Argentine court agreed
to oversee the day-to-day running of the country's main airline
on Friday amid signs the government is moving to expropriate
the carrier from its Spanish owners.
Argentina is in talks to take over Aerolineas Argentinas,
owned by Spanish travel group Marsans. But negotiations have
broken down because the two sides failed to agree on how much
the company was worth.
The court appointed a temporary administrator for the
airline at the government's request, but it was not immediately
clear how far-reaching his powers would be.
Gaining control of Aerolineas marks another step by
Argentina's center-left government to increase state or local
investor participation in companies tied to key economic
sectors that were largely privatized during the 1990s.
The judicial decision comes three days after an Argentine
congressional committee urged President Cristina Fernandez to
expropriate the airlines after months of tense negotiations
between the government and Marsans.
Marsans agreed in July to sell Aerolineas Argentinas and
its Austral unit to the government.
But talks collapsed after two audits determined widely
disparate values for the companies, which employ some 9,000
workers and operate about 80 percent of the country's domestic
Argentine officials have said the government should not
have to pay for the airlines, arguing their debt load of an
estimated $890 million exceeds their value -- a charge Marsans
The company has called for a third audit as laid out in the
original accord, but the government has refused, saying a law
passed by Congress did not require such a move.
Marsans threatens to take its case to the World Bank's
International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes if
the government expropriates the airlines.
For months, Aerolineas has been plagued by strikes and
Aerolineas was on the verge of bankruptcy in 2001 when
Marsans bought it from a group controlled by the Spanish
government. The carrier was first privatized in the early
(Writing by Kevin Gray; Editing by Andre Grenon)