Two United Airlines investors raise stakes to influence company

United Airlines planes are seen on platform at the Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey, July 8, 2015. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

(Reuters) - United Continental Holdings Inc UAL.N said on Tuesday two investment firms raised their stakes in the airline to engage it on issues ranging from board composition to capital structure and enhancing shareholder value.

United, the second largest U.S. airline by capacity, said Altimeter Capital Management LP increased its ownership to 3.1 percent, while PAR Investment Partners LP had taken a 2.4 percent stake. The companies have had smaller stakes in United for months and have already engaged the airline on such issues, the filings said.

Shares of the airline rose less than 1 percent in extended trading.

“Both Altimeter and PAR (have tended) to invest more in travel technology companies,” said travel industry analyst Henry Harteveldt.

Altimeter Chief Executive Brad Gerstner likely wants “to see United move faster in terms of generating more revenue. I don’t think he’s going to push for a breakup of the company or a sale of assets,” Harteveldt added.

United’s stock has fallen almost 36 percent in the past year amid sinking sales abroad and from its Houston hub, and its new chief executive, Oscar Munoz, is on medical leave after an October heart attack. Munoz plans to return to the job by the end of March or sooner.

“We actively engage in dialogue with our shareholders and welcome their constructive suggestions and feedback,” a spokeswoman for the airline said.

Representatives of the investment firms did not immediately return requests for comment.

As of Sept. 30, United’s largest shareholder was the Vanguard Group Inc with a nearly 7 percent stake, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Reporting by Jeffrey Dastin in New York; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Peter Cooney