* Merged Latin American carrier seeking to boost finances
* LATAM could launch operation this year
* Amount of capital increase not disclosed
SANTIAGO, April 29 (Reuters) - LATAM Airlines Group SA is mulling a capital increase to boost its finances and regain its investment grade, the regional carrier said on Monday, adding it could launch the operation later this year.
Latin America’s largest carrier is the result of Chilean airline LAN’s takeover of Brazil’s TAM last year. After the combination, Fitch Ratings in June lowered LATAM’s ratings on global debt to “BB plus” from “BBB,” citing the company’s high debt levels and constrained cash holdings.
“We’re mulling a capital increase,” Chairman Mauricio Amaro told reporters. “I’d rather not give figures, but it will be an amount necessary to regain our investment grade.”
Shares in the company tumbled 2.57 percent in midday Monday trading following the announcement, underperforming a 0.43 percent drop on Santiago’s blue-chip IPSA stock index.
Also on Monday, LATAM said it expects to be operating its Boeing 787 Dreamliners again in June.
LATAM’s net profit dived 96.6 percent in 2012 to $10.96 million, hammered by the costs of the takeover and higher taxes in Chile. The company’s shares have lost around a quarter of their value since the merger was completed in June.
The carrier has domestic operations in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.