The front-runner to acquire TNT’s two airlines – in terms of market speculation, anyway – is Ireland’s ASL Aviation Group and its 51% shareholder, Compagnie Maritime Belge (CMB). So it comes as little surprise that ASL has completed a funding round, worth US$110m, for “growth plans.”
While no one is talking much about their possible interest in TNT’s airlines (with the exception of CMB, which noted its interest in November), the potential buyer is likely to be chosen soon. FedEx’s acquisition of TNT is expected to complete in the first half of this year, and to conform with European rules on airline ownership, a new owner for TNT Airlines and Spain-based Pan Air will have to be in place before that happens.
ASL stretched itself last year with the acquisition of Farnair, and the rebranding of its four European airlines. It has also – according to media reports – lost out on a significant contract with La Poste, France’s postal service. While ASL declined to confirm or deny the reports, French newspapers reported that ASL’s French unions had urged La Poste to reconsider after it awarded the contract to Sweden’s West Atlantic Cargo Airlines instead – a decision which the French saw as being rather unpatriotic.
The union said the decision could result in the loss of up to 465 jobs.
West Atlantic also seems to be gearing up for growth. It is in the process of consolidating its two airlines, West Air Sweden and UK-based Atlantic Airlines, and is also eyeing a stock market listing on Nasdaq in Sweden.
And it too is involved in funding. In early December it issued SEK850m (US$100m) of senior secured bonds in an oversubscribed issue. It also announced that it would, “in the near future redeem all bonds under its outstanding bond loan of SEK500 million senior secured bonds.”
It is not known whether West Atlantic is interested in TNT Airways and Pan Air, but it is poised for growth. US-based Air Transport Services Group (ATSG) bought a 25% share in the carrier at the end of 2013, and this year, West Atlantic has now taken three 767-200Fs from Cargo Aircraft Management, ATSG’s leasing arm.
The airline said in November it was planning to use the finance raised from the bonds to pay for the acquisition of further aircraft. It added that: “other potential structural changes of the company are [being] evaluated, which may involve equity transactions.”