* Volaris positioning for IPO, media says
* New exec has record of restructuring, cutting costs
* Carriers race for bigger stakes in Mexicana wake
By Cyntia Barrera Diaz
MEXICO CITY, Feb 11 (Reuters) - Volaris, Mexico’s No. 3 airline, has tapped a seasoned executive to head the company’s board amid local media reports that the carrier could go public this year.
Volaris appointed Gilberto Perezalonso to replace Pedro Aspe as chairman of the board, the company said in a release late on Thursday. It mostly operates domestic routes but also flies to California and Chicago.
Aspe, Mexico’s former finance minister and a partner in investment fund Protego, resigned from his post with Volaris but will remain as honorary president of the company.
Perezalonso was behind broadcaster Grupo Televisa’s (TV.N) (TLVACPO.MX) financial overhaul in the late 1990s which included slashing thousands of jobs to cut costs. His tight grip pulled Televisa out from one of its worst crises and cemented its lead as Latin America’s top producer of Spanish-language television content.
Nicaragua-born Perezalonso also held a top post at one of Mexico’s main supermarket chains and was a chief executive for AeroMexico, Mexico’s biggest airline, a few years ago.
His appointment comes after Volaris, which local media have reported could pursue an initial public offering this year, lost two of its founding investors: Carlos Slim, the world’s richest man, and Televisa’s Chief Executive Emilio Azcarraga Jean.
Slim and Azcarraga sold their respective 25 percent stakes in Volaris in the third quarter of 2010 to a group of investors, including a U.S.-based venture capital firm.
Volaris faces strong competition from Interjet, which has expanded in recent months to take advantage of the demise of airline Mexicana after the troubled carrier stopped flying in August due to deep financial troubles.
Interjet told Reuters recently it was considering selling a stake to a foreign partner or listing its shares on the local stock market to boost growth. Last month, the company signed a $650 million contract with Superjet International for 15 aircraft that will add to its existing Airbus EAD.PA fleet.
AeroMexico has about 47 percent of the domestic market, followed by Interjet with around 20 percent and Volaris with 16 percent.
Mexicana’s future is still unclear as it has yet to reveal which new investors will inject fresh capital to kick-start the company. Mexico’s labor minister, Javier Lozano, told a radio show on Friday that Mexicana would start selling tickets again by the end of month. (Reporting by Cyntia Barrera Diaz, editing by Dave Zimmerman)