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Airline Mergers & Acquisitions

This category contains 18 posts

Surinam Airways must ‘think Big’, with a Big vision for the future beyond just Suriname, too many small national carriers think ‘small’ and never achieve their full potential, sticking to old tried ways without much success, yet look at the success of COPA (Panama), Norway Air Shuttle (Norway), Ethiopian Airlines (Ethiopia), Ryanair (Ireland) to Singapore Airlines (Singapore), think Big, plan Big, act Big and do Big things and you become Big in time, step by step. But if you think small, plan small, act small you will always remain small and insignificant and most likely, not profitable.

Surinam Airways must ‘think big’, says aviation expert Published on January 23, 2017 by Caribbean News Now by Ray Chickrie Email To Friend    Print Version  By Ray Chickrie PARAMARIBO, Suriname — In his assessment of Surinam Airways (SLM) (3 x B737-300’s and 1 x A340-300), aviation expert Tomas Chlumecky has called on the airline to “get out … Continue reading

UPDATE: Transwest Air is now a fully owned subsidiary of WestWind Aviation, now there is only 1 large regional airline in Saskatchewan, and 80% owned by 2 First Nations economic development corporations (EDC’s). These First Nations EDC’s now pretty much own ALL airlines in Canada’s north, usually through Aboriginal economic development corporations (EDC’s), with a few family and corporate hold outs in the Northwest Territories, especially at Yellowknife (Summit Air, Discovery Air-Air Tindi/Great Slave Helicopters, Buffalo Airways) and in Fort Smith Northwestern Air Lease Ltd. Is this a good thing or a bad thing where First Nations own all air services in Canada’s north ? Is this the only viable exit strategy available in the north or are there “pressures” to sell to local First Nations ? and Can the EDC’s create long term financially sustainable airlines ? First Air (Makivik Corp.) and Canadian North (IDA), have tried to merge several times but each time it has failed, even though it makes lots of economic sense to do it, or is more cooperation among the EDC’s needed, like the recent cooperation between Air North and First Air ?

As to my blog of August 21, 2016, the Transwest Air deal is done and it is now a fully owned subsidiary of WestWind Aviation, which itself is owned 55% by the Athabasca Basin Development (ABD) and 25% owned Prince Albert Development Corporation (PADC), in short 80% First Nation owned with 20% owned by the … Continue reading

UPDATE: Canadian regional airline consolidation continues as the once fragmented industry starts to consolidate around a single provincial operator. After 11 months under Canada’s CCAA (+/- Chapter 11 bankruptcy/reorganization), Quebec based regional airline, Pascan Aviation is acquired by 2 senior executives in a management buyout (MBO). Meanwhile Saskatchewan based WestWind Aviation, fresh from its acquisition of Osprey Wings last November, looks to takeover its main local competitor, Saab 340 operator Transwest Air, itself the product of two old local airlines and their pioneers (Athabasca Airways of Floyd Glass and La Ronge Aviation of Pat Campling) coming together in 2000, leaving WestWind Aviation a monopoly in Saskatchewan, much like Manitoba with Perimeter Airlines, Calm Air, Keewatin Air and Bearskin Airlines, all under one ownership. Times are changing for regional airlines in Canada, as the second generation of airline owners retire or sell of the businesses that their fathers and mothers built from scratch, usually with nothing more than a single Cessna 180 aircraft. Sad to see the old names disappear, it is the “circle of life”, but the legacies of our Canadian aviation pioneers will always remain with us.

UPDATE: As I wrote this, I found out that WestWind Aviation (80% First Nation owned) has bought Transwest Air for an undisclosed amount, now only 1 airline exists in Saskatchewan, like it or not.   This is my follow up to the January 5, 2016 article “Consolidation in the Canadian Regional Airline Industry”, as the … Continue reading

PRESENTATION: Finding the elusive sustainable airline business model in the Caribbean, a large graveyard for regional airlines for decades. The region has a great deal of potential, but government taxes (up to 100% of net ticket price) play havoc with passenger demand, poor intra regional connectivity and government protection for state subsidized airlines (LIAT, Caribbean Airlines, Bahamasair, Cayman Airways) limits any real competition. Time for real Open Skies, allowing freedom to serve any route by appropriately licensed carrier, and governments to get out of the airline business, and stop taxing airline tickets to the point where tourist traffic is 1/3 of what it was 10 years ago, the whole idea is to get tourist to the islands and then tax them, rather than tax them to death on airline tickets as they then chose other destinations to travel to, its all backwards. LIAT flies 35% of its routes on money losing “social routes” with ATR-72/42’s, time to get small regionals with 15-19 passenger turboprops to compliment and even replace LIAT services on money losing routes, frees up ATR capacity for money making routes and reduces or eliminates loses on “social routes”. Time for a more intelligent approach on air transport and air connectivity in the region, where tourism is still struggling after 8 years, and it is tourism that drives the economies in the Caribbean.

I attended the Carib Avia’s 1st annual Caribbean Aviation Meetup between June 14-16, 2016 in Roseau the capital city of the beautiful Commonwealth of Dominica, and attached is the 2 hour presentation from the Conference. The Presentation covers airlines that have gone bust, regional aircraft, multi-government owned airlines, airline business models, regional airline valuations to … Continue reading

SUMMARY: Consolidation in the Canadian regional airline industry is slower than I expected, but recent acquisitions by West Wind Aviation of Osprey Wings and Harbour Air (aka “World’s Largest Seaplane Airline”) acquisition of Salt Spring Air on top of EIC acquiring Provincial Aerospace and Chorus Aviation acquiring Voyageur Airways earlier in 2015 gives me some hope for more mergers and acquisitions (M&A) activity in this sector over the next 1-3 years. In fact, Harbour Air itself has sold 49% of it’s equity to a Chinese investor in 2015, and is now planning to enter the highly questionable Chinese seaplane market , just as it solidifies it’s dominant market position in and around the Vancouver area having also acquired Whistler Air (in 2012) and West Coast Air (in 2010), and then divested itself off Prince Rupert based North Pacific Seaplanes (in 2013). There are 6 privately owned Canadian regional airlines that could be in play in the next 2-3 years, as several airlines are well into their 2nd generation of management by owners and most do not have a 3rd generation waiting to take control and few are actually growing and basically stuck in their traditional market. Publicly owned Exchange Income Corporation (EIC) with 5 airlines now has shown that you can make money with regional airlines as long as you have good management, a good market position/niche and financing behind you. The industry is changing, in the north, most airlines are now First Nation owned and the remaining privately owned airlines will find eager investors if they truly want to sell and are prepared for suitors before they need a buyer, as most small airlines are unprepared to generate interest with potential buyers, as they don’t even know how to value their business’s worth, what are its attributes and how to attract a broader pool of investors willing to pay more for the company. Last, I will discuss the growth of seaplane airlines around the world and the need for new aircraft beyond just old landplanes with bulky and heavy floats attached, for the industry to really grow.

I have previously discussed the Canadian regional airline market, and that consolidation is coming as family run airlines are looking to sell their airlines, as witnessed by Exchange Income Corporation (EIC) of Winnipeg (TSX:EIF), which has bought 5 Canadian private family regional airlines in the past 12 years, and surely eyeing more: Perimeter Aviation in … Continue reading

SUMMARY: Another Canadian airline has shut its doors again, as IMP Group’s CanJet Airlines has packed it in after 15 years of trying everything to be successful, from being sold to Canada 3000 and then revived, then went into scheduled services, then went into charter flying for tour operator Sunquest followed by ACMI flying for Air Transat and when that ended a failed quick and poorly planned attempt at becoming a tour operator as well, but CanJet Vacations lasted 2 months at best, again poor execution of a business plan and now it has run out of ideas. The airline has run the gauntlet of airline business models without any long term success or profit, the problem is more to do with execution than the business plans used, a common Canadian aviation problem. Now it will dry lease out its last 4 x B737-800’s and return them to their owners in May, 2016, but with no operations the AOC will be gone, and that is worth something for Canada’s aspiring ULCC start-ups like Canada Jetline or Maple Leaf Travel who have no AOC or money right now. Canada needs a ULCC, the business model is proven and LCC companies like Indigo Partners LCC and Irelandia Aviation surely would love to give it a try in Canada where 85% of domestic travel is in the hands of the duopoly of Westjet Airlines and Air Canada. Why are airlines like Air Transat allowed to lease in 10+ foreign B737-800’s on ACMI leases when Canadian aircraft and crews are available ? foreign ACMI leases should be allowed only when there is no Canadian lift available, time for the government to investigate this matter.

As expected (my Blog May 19, 2015), Canada has lost another airline last week, when CanJet Airlines, shut down the operation of its last operational Boeing B737-800 which was operating on an ACMI lease for Air Transat out of Toronto, and was downgraded to just a dry lease, forcing the company to furlough its last … Continue reading

SUMMARY: The good airline news out of Europe is that TAP Portugal is finally 61% privatized and in good hands for the future while the Irish Government gives the go ahead for IAG’s buyout of Aer Lingus. The bad news is that Lithuania’s small national airline, Air Lituanica becomes the 5th European airline this year to shutdown (27 in 2014), while Croatian Airlines and Adria Airways nervously wait for their privatization as it is “swim or sink” time for them and others like LOT, TAROM, Estonian Air, Czech Airlines, AirBaltic, etc. as they have all taken or will take their last “one time” EU allowed state aid packages, and from now on for most, if they run out of money, they have NO choice but to file for bankruptcy. The low cost carriers (LCC) in Europe continue to grow at a fast pace and challenge the existence of national carriers as incumbents cannot muster any significant competitive response against the LCC onslaught in Europe. Meanwhile, fully government owned AirBaltic of Latvia becomes the launch customer for Bombardier’s CS300 (20 on order, 13 + 7 options), the $US 1.44 billion aircraft cost and launch customer designation is not realistic from an airline based in Latvia that lost $US 220 million since 2010, bailed out by the Government in 2011 and has made only $US 11 million in net profit in the past 2 years on revenues of $US 688 million (a slim 1.6% net profit margin), it is a barely a financially viable carrier without the new and expensive CS300’s. The airline has 24 aircraft today (B737-300/500, Q400’s) making it the 36th largest airline in Europe (following ‘big’ names like Onur Air and Norwind Airlines ?) is this a joke ? Bombardier has NO “better” customer for the launch of the CS300 ? the quality of its current customer order book is sad indeed after Lufthansa and Korean. It reminds me of the Sukhoi SSJ-100 tragic launch customer Armavia (of Armenia), which was an absolute PR and marketing disaster, as it accepted the 1st aircraft, could not finance the 2nd aircraft, and then went bust. Anyway, the plight of the small/medium government owned and private airlines in Europe continues, what is their future ? or is there one ? Air Serbia pulls off an incredible corporate turnaround in 1 year under its “white knight” equity partnership with Etihad Airways, but other airlines may not be so lucky, time to look at new business models for survival before the wave of European bankruptcies begins as surely 50 European countries cannot all have a national airline !

The European airline industry is tough, unstable and very dynamic, the latest casualty is little known Air Lituanica of Lithuania, which is the 5th European airline victim in 2015 (not counting Russia), following Cyprus Airways, EuroLot (Poland), Tend Air (Romania) and Wizz Air Ukraine into the history books. The European airline industry is in trouble … Continue reading

SUMMARY: Canada’s charter airlines struggle, CanJet Airlines (owned by IMP) future in serious doubt while Air Transat limps along in its recovery, but Air Canada’s Rouge is growing and on its heels. Meanwhile the 3 ultra low cost airline candidates struggle to raise money, with Jet Naked (Enerjet) lost its 3 star ULCC (ultra low cost carrier) executives and now Enerjet is being sued by them for breach of contract. Meanwhile, NewLeaf Travel Co. Inc. ties up with Flair airlines to operate 2 x B737-400’s for it, IF and WHEN it raises sufficient start-up capital. Over in Vancouver, Canada Jetlines orders 5 and options another 16 Boeing B737Max7’s before it even has start-up financing in place ?? Interesting developments in this segment, and worth watching, as Canada needs a ultra low cost airline (ULCC) to offer low cost air travel to Canadians. Canada is the ONLY large country left without a LCC, and is controlled by a duopoly. Troubled CanJet Airlines has the potential to be a ULCC and save itself from doom, but right now it looks like no ULCC will start-up in Canada this year and CanJet will most likely be shut down, leaving NO low cost champion in Canada, and 34 million Canadians are prisoners to only 2 airlines domestically, a country that is only 2% smaller than all of Europe put together !

The first 4 months of 2015, have brought mixed results for some of Canada’s airlines. In big trouble is one of Canada’s leisure and ad hoc charter airlines, Halifax based CanJet Airlines, owned by IMP Group International, a diversified conglomerate owned by the Rowe family, that now employs 4,500 employees in 6 Divisions in Aerospace … Continue reading

ABSTRACT: Chorus Aviation, the biggest Air Canada Express partner with 122 aircraft, is buying DHC-8 / CRJ-200 ACMI operations specialist Voyageur Airways for $C 80 million on the heels of an amended CPA (capacity purchase agreement) with Air Canada (AC) that now extends into 2025, and one that requires Chorus to lower its costs, one way to do that is to set up a separate low cost unit (Voyageur Airways) to operate the older DHC-8-100/300’s at a lower cost base , and another unit will continue to operate the newer and bigger Q400’s, CRJ-705’s and the CRJ-200’s, it is a strategic move to lower labor costs (at $95,442 per employee, 9% higher than at AC) and to stop other regional airlines like Sky Regional and Air Georgian from winning new AC CPA business in the future, Chorus Aviation is paying a rather high 4.7 times EBITDA to have its ‘low cost subsidiary’, the old and out of production DHC-8’s (average 26 years old) have become a burden on Chorus which generates 99.2% of its business from AC, its previous attempts to diversity have all failed, a regional LCC is a fantasy, too little room for extra seats or extra utilization to drive CASM’s down, Chorus Aviation’s 2014 Net Income margin of 3.9% is very low and cash flow was negative $C 45 million, AC needs low cost regional partners more than ever now and it just gave Chorus a 10 year life line to shape up.

Canada’s Chorus Aviation Inc.  (TSX: CHR.B, CHR.A) is to buy all of the issued shares of 519222 Ontario Ltd. A holding company that owns North Bay, Ontario based Voyageur Airways and its affiliated companies for around $C 80.0 million to be its ‘low cost’ DHC-8-100/300 operator, a mini version of Rouge, which is Air Canada’s … Continue reading

ABSTRACT: IAG (International Airline Group) acquires Ireland’s Aer Lingus and gains 23 valuable slots at Heathrow, while oneworld partner Qatar Airways buys 10% of IAG, Europe’s highly fragmented airline industry with 200+ airline groups where the top 5 airlines by traffic have a 46% market share compared to 87% in the highly consolidated and concentrated US market, and a new stage of European consolidations will soon begin, as state aid is all but gone now, and already in 2015 both Cyprus Airways and EuroLOT are shut down, Lufthansa Group and Air France-KLM Group both struggle with sustainable profitability and many of the remaining small carriers are waiting for a “white knight” before they go bankrupt, meanwhile most of the recent European airline acquisitions have been from outside of Europe, the industry is changing, and many airline bankruptcies are expected as there are no more “white knights” around like Etihad Airways to rescue the weak and struggling airlines.

The Irish national carrier, Aer Lingus is being acquired by IAG (International Airline Group, LSE:IAG), the 6th largest airline group in the world with revenue of $US 24.7 B (billion) and the parent of British Airways, Spain’s Iberia and LCC Vueling, valuing the airline at Euro 1.36 billion (+/- $US 1.53 billion). Under current CEO … Continue reading

SUMMARY: Russia’s civil aerospace industry and life after the annexation of Crimea and a new Cold War. Now EU/US have applied 4 rounds of economic sanctions, now its time to add Russia’s Aerospace industry to those sanctions, VLM Airlines plan to bring the Sukhoi SuperJet 100 to Western Europe, appropriate at this time ? and what is the future for Russia’s 6th placed civil aviation industry with a weak Ruble and oil below $50 a barrel and with less than 1% of the global commercial aircraft market (in $ terms) ? will the Irkut MC-21 (to be re-designated as Yak-242 in 2016) even fly now ? Russia now scrambling to have Russians flying on Russian airliners, Bombardier can’t dump the Q400 program fast enough on the Chinese, while ATR can’t build the ATR-72-600 fast enough with 280 in backlog and 160 firm orders in 2014 alone ! While Turkey looks to stretch the AN-158 to 120 seats.

The Russian economy is taking a beating these days, the 4 rounds of EU/US sanctions have hurt a bit but the big hurt comes from falling oil prices (below $US 54 a barrel today) which accounts for 75% of Russia’s exports and the Ruble (RUB) is now down 50% to only 58.5 RUB to one … Continue reading

ABSTRACT: Fast growing Exchange Income Corporation (EIC) of Winnipeg buys its 7th aviation company for $246 million, Provincial Aerospace Ltd. (PAL) and is now the 3rd largest fixed wing commercial aircraft operator in Canada with around 117 aircraft and few have heard of the company, yet it has what we need in Canadian aviation, vision, desire to grow, good leadership and ability to source financing, who said you can’t make money in this industry ? it takes financial experts working closely with experienced aviation executives and letting them do their jobs ! finally a quick look at the Maritime Patrol Market that PAL is in.

Back on January 31, 2013, I wrote a blog entitled “Consolidation through mergers and acquisitions in the Canadian regional airline industry and how to Value them ?”. I introduced the Exchange Income Corporation (EIC) (TSX: EIF) run by Mr. Mike Pyle out of Winnipeg, which today owns 6 aviation companies, 4 are regional airlines in … Continue reading

Once again the Makivik Corporation and NorTerra Inc. could NOT agree on a merger between their respective First Air and Canadian North airline operations, the merger is dead even though they acknowledge “that the Northern airline industry was not economically viable”, so will the owners subsidize their airlines forever ? or make changes to their business model ?

Back in mid-April, 2014, The owner of Canadian North, NorTerra Inc. and the owner of First Air, Makivik Corporation, announced that talks were under way to merge the two northern Canadian airlines, which together operate 39 aircraft (DHC-8-100’s to Boeing 737’s and a B767), to “improve the sustainability of the critical Inuit birth right enterprises” … Continue reading

ABSTRACT: Etihad Airways (aka “White Knight”) buys 49% of money loosing Alitalia for $2.4 billion and adds its 8th Equity Alliance partner, and the 3rd big partner that desperately needs cash along with Air Berlin and Jet Airways just to survive, it saved much smaller partners Air Seychelles and Air Serbia (ex-JAT) from certain death, and does anyone remember Swissair’s infamous “Hunter Strategy” ? it acquired equity in 10 European airlines and it collapsed in 2002 ! well this Etihad Equity Alliance strategy is nothing like it.

The unique Equity Alliance strategy followed by Etihad Airways CEO Mr. James Hogan is really taking off as Etihad Airways has just signed a $US 2.4 billion deal to buy 49% of Italy’s struggling Alitalia, and in one move Etihad gains access to Europe’s 4th biggest market. Hats off to James Hogan for the creative … Continue reading

European Regional Airlines in Turmoil, Once High Flying FlyBE is Restructuring, while Air France and KLM gave up on Irish based City Jet, and sold it

UK’s regional airline FlyBE is in the process of restructuring its business model as the once high flying regional airline suffers from 3 years of widening losses. This case shows how regional airlines are struggling around the world, trying to find their market place between full network airlines (FNA’s) and low cost airlines (LCC’s), and … Continue reading

Mega Merger Between First Air and Canadian North Will Keep Regulators Busy

The planned merger between Makivik Corporations’s First Air and NorTerra Inc.’s Canadian North will have a tough time from regulators, as reported in the previous article, 27 destinations are presently overlapped by both airlines. With only one airline serving those destinations, this will turn into a monopoly situation, for as soon as competition is taken … Continue reading

Mega Canadian Airline Merger in the Works as Canadian North and First Air Start Discussions

It was announced yesterday that Makivik Corporation, the owner of First Air and NorTerra Inc. the owner of Canadian North started to talk about merging the two northern Canadian airlines, which will create a single airline entity that builds on the strengths and identities of the two airlines. They say no lay offs are planned, … Continue reading

Consolidation through Mergers and Acquisitions in the Canadian regional airline industry and how to Value them ?

I have worked overseas for 20 years working with 30+ airlines all over the world on strategy and now back in Canada I have found it difficult to find out how well Canadian airlines do financially and why more consolidation has not happened. With some M&A (mergers and acquisitions) experience and airline privatizations behind me, … Continue reading