Argentina to seize airline Aerolineas -report

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Argentina’s government has decided to seize the country’s top airline, Aerolineas Argentinas, because talks with the current owners over a price have broken down, a leading newspaper reported on Thursday.

Private Spanish travel group Marsans agreed in July to sell faltering Aerolineas Argentinas and its Austral unit to the government.

The two companies employ some 9,000 workers and operate about 80 percent of domestic flights. They also have debt worth an estimated $890 million.

Newspaper La Nacion said the government would soon announce its decision to expropriate the airlines, citing sources in the centre-left government, trade unions and the company.

“The agreement with Marsans got exhausted with time,” an unnamed government official was quoted as saying.

A Transport Secretariat spokesman declined to comment.

Local media have reported that Marsans values the companies at between $250 million (155 million pounds) and $450 million, while the Argentine government has said it should not have to pay a dime.

A government source told Reuters earlier this month the national appraisals court put the figure at a deficit of $600 million.

Reporting by Jorge Otaola; Writing by Helen Popper, editing by Matthew Lewis