Chile's dominant airline LAN will ask an anti-trust tribunal to drop a probe into a planned merger with Brazilian carrier TAM, CEO Enrique Cueto told local media in interviews published on Wednesday.

The Chilean tribunal's probe, announced last week, puts a temporary hold on the merger plan and could delay or even block a bid to create one of the world's 10 biggest airlines.

Chilean consumers asked the country's competition tribunal to investigate whether the deal conforms to local regulations. That means the merger cannot move forward until the tribunal has given it the go ahead.

"We will ask the tribunal to reconsider the measure," Cueto told newspaper El Mercurio's Wednesday edition. He said the company had until Thursday to appeal the tribunal's decision to probe the deal.

"If not, we will follow the normal path such a consultation takes," he added, saying he hoped an agreement hammered out with the national economic regulator would prevail. He said LAN could even appeal to the Supreme Court if unsuccesful.

Cueto said he was optimistic the TAM tie-up would ultimately go through, but said there was a always a risk it could fail.

"The most important effect of this is that it can delay the process, and the more the final signing of a pact is delayed, there is always a risk it will fail," Cueto told newspaper Diario Financiero in a separate interview.

LAN had said last month it expected the merger with TAM to be completed within six to nine months. The anti-trust tribunal's probes take on average the same period.

Industry analysts say LAN is effectively buying the Brazilian airline as the Cueto family is set to emerge with the major stake in what would be one of the world's top carriers.

The Cueto family is the main shareholder of LAN, considered one of Latin America's most profitable airlines.

LAN's fourth-quarter profit jumped 50 percent to $165 million, beating market expectations on strong air and cargo traffic.


Portada Staff

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