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Brazil court orders Avianca Brasil to return 11 planes - newspaper

SAO PAULO, Dec 7 (Reuters) - Brazil’s fourth largest airline, Avianca Brasil, could lose 11 planes, or close to 20 percent of its fleet, after being served with an injunction for allegedly falling behind in lease payments, newspaper Valor reported on Friday.

The injunction can be appealed. Avianca Brasil did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

According to Valor, leasing companies BOC Aviation and Constitution Aircraft filed for the injunction. At least some of the planes involved are Airbus A320s, the newspaper reported.

Avianca Brasil is unlisted and is independent from the other better-known airline, Avianca Holdings SA, which is based in Colombia and is publicly traded.

But both airlines share the same owner, a holding company controlled by German Efromovich, a Bolivian-born airline investor who last week sealed a personal loan of $456 million with airline giant United Continental Holdings.

The loan is secured by Efromovich’s shares in Colombia’s Avianca, which is larger and more profitable than its Brazil counterpart but which also has a significant amount of debt.

It is unclear how Efromovich will spend the loaned money, but failing to repay his debt could pave the way for United to take control of Colombia’s Avianca.

United is already expanding in Latin America through a code share deal with Avianca and Panama’s Copa, but an ownership stake in Avianca would give the No. 3 U.S. airline unprecedented access to the Latin American market. (Reporting by Marcelo Rochabrun Editing by Frances Kerry)