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US Airways draws the line in pursuit of Delta

US Airways CEO Doug Parker said Tuesday he would not pursue a hostile bid for Delta Air Lines if it emerges from bankruptcy.
/ Source: The Associated Press

US Airways CEO Doug Parker said Tuesday he would not pursue a hostile bid for Delta Air Lines if it emerges from bankruptcy.

“We’ve got a company to run,” Parker said in a conference call with reporters. “We’re not going to keep chasing this thing, even though we’ve got a bunch of people telling us we should.”

Parker said he would hold Delta’s creditors to a Thursday deadline to begin moving forward on its $9.9 billion bid for the Atlanta-based carrier.

To keep the offer alive, Parker said Delta’s creditors have until midnight Thursday to request a delay in a Feb. 7 bankruptcy hearing on Delta management’s bankruptcy plan. The creditors also must call on both companies to begin the federal regulatory process and a due diligence process that would open Delta’s books for US Airways.

If this doesn’t happen, and Delta emerges from Chapter 11 as a stand-alone company, Parker said he would no longer pursue the airline. But while US Airways has said Feb. 1 is the deadline for the current offer, the carrier has declined to comment on whether it would make other offers for Delta after that.

Parker said it would be more difficult to make money if US Airways were to combine with a standalone Delta.

For example, Parker said, US Airways wouldn’t be able to cut costs like it can now with a bankrupt Delta. A stand-alone Delta also would come with a number of contracts and leases that wouldn’t be part of US Airways’ operations plan.

“The new company would be committed to those and wouldn’t have the ability to work through the bankruptcy court to get those terminated,” Parker said.

If US Airways combines with Delta now, the company says it could save $1.65 billion per year by trimming its fleet of aircraft, cutting redundant routes and other synergies.

Parker said he continues to wait for a response from Delta’s official creditors committee, which hasn’t said anything publicly since US Airways increased its bid earlier this month.

“We’ll do whatever they want us to do,” Parker said. “We’ll go and meet with them, if they want us to.”

A smaller group of creditors said Monday it believes the US Airways offer is superior to Delta’s plan.

Ray Neidl, an airline analyst with Calyon Securities in New York, said no matter what happens by Thursday, US Airways probably will continue to look to combine with other carriers.

“I wouldn’t be surprised (that) if they didn’t do this deal, they wouldn’t be out hunting again pretty soon,” Neidl said.

When US Airways first bid for Delta in November, analysts speculated whether the deal would set off a wave of mergers and acquisitions in the industry.

But Parker said Tuesday he didn’t believe there was much chance for more consolidation.

“It’s my own view that if both Delta and Northwest emerge from bankruptcy stand-alone, I don’t think you’ll see consolidation of the airline industry in this cycle,” Parker said.

“Not until you find airlines in financial distress will you see consolidation happen.”

Shares of US Airways fell $2.44, or 1.33 percent, to $55.31 in late morning trading on the New York Stock Exchange. They have traded in a 52-week range of $28.35 to $63.27.