Willie Walsh and Fernando Conte – the chiefs of British Airways and Spanish national airline Iberia – have announced consolidation talks which are likely to take several months. Walsh said the aviation industry is changing and “airline consolidation is long overdue.’‘ A year ago BA gave up on a takeover attempt of Iberia, but soaring oil prices have made this merger a greater priority.
The Spanish airline has shares or options on shares for almost 10% of British Airways. BA owns just over 13% of Iberia. Its biggest shareholder is the savings bank Caja Madrid with 23% and which reportedly supports this merger plan. The Spanish government has 5.2% and department store group El Corte Ingles owns 3.4%.
Walsh also confirmed that alliance talks with US carrier American Airlines are continuing. The three airlines want a waiver from US competition authorities allowing them to sent up a trans-Atlantic joint venture off the back of the recent “open skies” accord.