* LAN still studying conditions imposed by regulator
* Merged company would be one of world's biggest airlines
* LAN,TAM shares fall more steeply than local bourses
(Adds fresh analyst comment, updates share prices)
By Antonio de la Jara and Alexandra Ulmer
SANTIAGO, Sept 22 LAN Airlines LAN.SN said on
Thursday it hopes its multibillion-dollar takeover of Brazil's
TAM TAMM4.SA will be completed in the first quarter of 2012,
but it is studying conditions imposed by Chile's regulator.
LAN's chief operating officer, Ignacio Cueto, told a
conference in Santiago that Chile's antitrust tribunal's
approval was a step forward, but administrative issues arising
from the ruling will take four to five months to iron out.
The regulator's conditional approval on Wednesday paves the
way for the creation of one of the world's biggest airlines.
"This pretty long process will continue to advance toward a
possible integration with TAM ... God willing, in the first
quarter of next year," Cueto said.
LAN is carefully studying the tribunal's conditions and
will comment on them by Monday, he added. Analysts appeared
split on whether LAN would appeal any of the mitigation
measures at Chile's supreme court.
"The mitigations don't appear strong enough for LAN (to go
to the supreme court)," said Jorge Sepulveda, a LAN analyst
with EuroAmerica brokerage in Santiago.
The airlines are seen appealing at least three of the
measures, according to a report by Santander GBM in Santiago,
who said the restrictions would significantly affect the
The most restrictive measures are those calling for
so-called "interline" agreements with other airlines interested
in operating three key routes, quitting one of the two global
alliances LAN and TAM are part of, and opening the domestic
market to non-Chilean carriers, according to Santander GBM.
Cueto played down a sharp sell-off in LAN shares, which
closed down 7.33 percent on Thursday, outpacing losses in
Santiago's blue-chip IPSA stock index.IPSA, which ended 5.47
percent lower on fears of a recession in the U.S. and Europe.
Traders said approval of the deal had largely been priced
into shares in recent weeks, and some investors were selling
the fact. Shares of TAM fell 8.48 percent, outpacing a 4.83
percent drop in Brazil's Bovespa index .BVSP.
But most analysts said they expect shares to recover in the
long-term and post strong gains by year-end.
Graphic on LAN and TAM: link.reuters.com/jup83s
FACTBOX-Chile OKs LAN takeover of TAM [ID:nS1E78J0E1]
FACTBOX-Measures LAN must take [ID:nS1E78K1CR]
FACTBOX-Biggest airlines by market cap [ID:nS1E78K20B]
The Chilean government endorsed the deal, saying it would
bring benefits to the country.
Industry experts say the ruling of the antitrust tribunal
will act as a blueprint for future mergers in Chile. However,
they say the deal could face delays in Chile if a third party,
such as a rival airline, appeals the decision to the Supreme
Consumer group Conadecus, which prompted the antitrust
probe in the first place with a complaint, has said it is
satisfied with the conditions imposed and would not need to
appeal to the Supreme Court if consumer rights were protected.
The combined $12.38 billion market capitalization of LAN
and TAM, Thomson Reuters data shows, would rank company as the
world's second-largest publicly traded airline, though the deal
involves a share swap that will likely dilute the merged
group's overall market value.
The Chilean antitrust tribunal, TDLC, said the merged
airline must comply with a host of conditions, including ceding
slots on the key Santiago to Sao Paulo route and renouncing
participation in one of two global alliances.
The measures also require LAN to modify its self-regulation
and cancel and revise code-sharing agreements with airlines
that do not belong to the same alliance as the newly merged
LATAM on some routes.
LAN has been asked to cede four of its frequencies from
Santiago to Lima to other Chilean airlines, which would also
limit its flights from the Peruvian capital to other
"LAN had already committed to most of these measures," said
Mabel Weber, senior analyst at BICE Inversiones brokerage in
Santiago. "But the Lima issue they weren't expecting ... it's
the most difficult one."
In Brazil, the deal to create the new LATAM Airlines Group
has already cleared two of three anti-monopoly hurdles and is
now awaiting approval from antitrust council Cade.
LAN Airlines SA's (LFL.N) takeover of TAM SA will create an
airline giant with joint revenue of $10.4 billion, based on
When the planned merger was announced last August, the
all-stock transaction was worth an estimated $2.7 billion.
LAN is widely regarded as one of Latin America's most
profitable airlines due to a lucrative cargo business that sets
it apart from many other international carriers. LAN has been
seeking to expand in Brazil -- Latin America's leading aviation
market -- for years.
(Reporting by Antonio de la Jara, Alexandra Ulmer and Felipe
Iturrieta; Writing by Simon Gardner; Editing by John Wallace,
Steve Orlofsky and Gunna Dickson)