American Airlines entering critical period in restructuring

Fri Jan 4, 2013 4:53pm EST
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By Soyoung Kim and Nick Brown and Karen Jacobs

(Reuters) - As American Airlines' board meets next week, expectations are high that it will give more concrete shape to the airline's plans to either merge with US Airways LCC.N or stay independent.

The directors of parent AMR Corp AAMRQ.PK plan to review a tie-up with its smaller rival against an alternative plan to exit bankruptcy as a standalone company, several people familiar with the matter said.

But the people close to the talks told Reuters they do not expect the AMR board to formally choose one option over the other next week, as detailed terms of a deal, such as price and the new management team, have yet to be hammered out. There are currently no plans for an announcement after the meeting.

The meeting that starts Wednesday could still provide clues about whether American is finding merit in the idea of merging with US Airways while it is still restructuring in bankruptcy.

AMR Chief Executive Tom Horton rebuffed an aggressive takeover push from US Airways early in the bankruptcy process, saying American preferred to exit court protection on its own and consider a deal later.

Now, after several months of talks with US Airways and AMR's creditors, Horton has softened his approach at the insistence of the creditors' committee and agreed to consider all options.

In a message to employees on Thursday, Horton said there's no specific deadline for the evaluation to end, but the company expects to "bring this to a conclusion within a matter of weeks."

"I can assure you we are conducting a collaborative, fact-based analysis to determine the best path forward for American," he said.   Continued...

An American Airlines McDonnell Douglas MD-83 is pictured in New York August 28, 2012. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz