BUENOS AIRES, July 14 (Reuters) - Private Spanish travel firm Marsans has agreed to sell airline Aerolineas Argentinas to the government of the South American country, local newspapers reported on Monday.
Daily La Nacion, citing unnamed sources on both sides, said government officials and company executives would negotiate the price of the company and discuss the size of its debt during the coming 90 days.
A Transport Secretariat spokesperson declined to comment on the report, which appeared in several other newspapers. A spokesman for Marsans in Spain also declined to comment.
The center-left administration of President Cristina Fernandez asked a judge last week to appoint an administrator at the airline in what was seen as a possible step toward a state takeover of the company.
It also contributed $16 million to pay overdue wages and keep flights operating.
Aerolineas has been plagued by strikes and complaints about poor service, and June wages had been delayed. It also faces growing debt under state-controlled fares despite subsidized jet fuel.
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, the deal did not advance.
Analysts say the government’s moves on Aerolineas could signal another step toward what Argentine media dub the “Argentinization” of prominent companies.
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.SNLFL.N. (With additional reporting by the Madrid bureau) (Reporting by Helen Popper and Cesar Illiano, editing by Dave Zimmerman)
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