Official: US Airways might up offer for Delta

/ Source: The Associated Press

US Airways is willing to increase its $8.4 billion bid for Delta Air Lines Inc. if Delta can justify that it is worth more, an official with knowledge of US Airways’ plans told The Associated Press on Monday.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the talks, said US Airways first needs to see how much Atlanta-based Delta values itself at in its reorganization plan, which it could file with the bankruptcy court as early as Tuesday, and whether any other airline makes a bid for Delta.

US Airways is eager to get a look at Delta’s books to analyze how much if at all to increase the unsolicited offer, which was first disclosed Nov. 15, the official said.

A Delta spokeswoman declined to comment Monday on the timing of when Delta will file its reorganization plan, which some observers believe could value Delta at more than US Airways’ current offer.

Tempe, Ariz.-based US Airways Group Inc. has always “anticipated” the possibility of having to increase its offer and was not trying to buy Delta Air Lines Inc. “on the cheap,” the official said.

As of last week, no other carrier had offered to buy Delta since US Airways’ hostile bid, and no merger discussions between Delta and any other carrier have been ongoing, the head of Delta’s pilots union said Wednesday.

The pilots union is a large creditor in Delta’s bankruptcy case and is a member of the unsecured creditors committee, a key player in determining whether any merger would go forward.

A few hours after the union chairman’s comments, Delta’s pilots held a rally near Atlanta to protest US Airways’ bid. Nearly 3,000 people attended. Delta management also has opposed a merger. Delta’s creditors committee was scheduled to meet later that day in New York to discuss the airline’s proposal to remain a standalone carrier.

Last Tuesday, lawyers for the Delta creditors committee said in a bankruptcy court filing there is no guarantee that US Airways’ buyout offer of Delta will ever be consummated, but it surely will fall through if the pilots’ pension plan at Delta is not terminated.

The committee said in court papers that its consideration of the deal is still in the early stages, but that US Airways has made clear it would walk away without the pilots’ pension being dumped.

The remarks were made in a filing in which the committee asked the bankruptcy court to deny a request by some retired Delta pilots to stay the court’s earlier approval of the pension termination pending further appeal. A federal district judge has upheld the bankruptcy court’s approval.