* Rival plan had put forward Delta as sponsor
* At stake is access to 36 slots at Tokyo’s Haneda airport
* ANA, with its track record in Japan, seen best option -creditor (Adds comments from ANA executive, creditor, context)
By Maki Shiraki and Tim Kelly
TOKYO, Aug 5 (Reuters) - ANA Holdings Inc has won creditor backing to lead a turnaround of bankrupt Japanese discount carrier Skymark Airlines Inc, defeating a plan that proposed Delta Air Lines Inc as its sponsor.
The victory gives Japan’s largest carrier access to Skymark’s 36 landing slots at Tokyo’s crowded Haneda airport, helping it cement its domestic dominance over Japan Airlines Co Ltd.
For debt holders seeking to recoup their money, ANA is “less risky” than Delta, a creditor told Reuters ahead of the decision.
ANA operates airlines in Japan, has already discussed business plans with Skymark and is close to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government, the creditor added, declining to be identified due to the sensitivity of the matter.
Political backing helped ANA garner 11 of 16 new international landing slots at Haneda in 2013.
More than 170 creditors voted on the proposals in two rounds - the first weighted by amount owed, while the second gave each creditor an equal vote. ANA, which has offered to buy 16.5 percent of Skymark, won 60.5 percent of the first round and more than three quarters of the second.
“Delta is a mega carrier and therefore a daunting opponent, but it had a number of hurdles to overcome,” Toyuki Nagamine, a director at ANA said at a press briefing with representatives from Skymark and its financial backer private equity firm, Integral Corp, which supported ANA.
For Delta, the decision is a lost opportunity to gain a bigger presence in Japan where it does not have an alliance partner.
Barring any upheld objections from creditors, Integral’s ANA-sponsored revival plan will be implemented after 30 days.
“While this is not the result we had hoped for, as Skymark’s single largest creditor, Intrepid will continue to focus on working constructively with key stakeholders,” Franklin Pray, chief executive of Intrepid Aviation said in a statement.
Intrepid had proposed Delta as a sponsor after it fell out with ANA over a failed deal to lease the airline planes.
Skymark’s failure came after its finances were stretched by plans to fly Airbus Group SE A380 superjumbos on overseas routes. Airbus demanded a $710 million cancellation fee after the airline was unable to keep up with payments.
Airbus, Skymark’s second-biggest creditor, sided with ANA, people with knowledge of the matter told Reuters earlier in the day.
Tokyo District Court has recognized Skymark liabilities of 152.2 billion yen ($1.2 billion) while a further 157 billion yen remains under dispute. (Reporting by Maki Shiraki and Tim Kelly; Additional reporting by Chang-Ran Kim; Editing by Edwina Gibbs and Christopher Cushing)