Texas-Mexico group seeks airline's assets

Thursday, June 15th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

MEXICO CITY - In a bid to serve budget travelers south of the border, a Texas-Mexico business consortium applied to buy the assets of a bankrupt Mexican airline, a government spokesman said Wednesday.

Consorcio Hispanoamericano de Aviación proposed acquiring the holdings of Transportes Aéreos Ejecutivos SA, or TAESA, in documents filed late Tuesday with Mexican officials acting as bankruptcy trustees.

"We're ready to fly, so is the union, and so are consumers who are sick of paying more for airline tickets," said Marco Delgado, an attorney representing theconsortium.

TAESA went broke in February but enjoyed success for a time by offering low fares on routes between Central Mexico and the U.S. border.

"My clients are very interested in serving the niche market that TAESA was serving," said Mr. Delgado, a partner in the El Paso law firm of Delgado, Acosta, Braden & Jones PC.

Another Mexican company has also offered to buy TAESA's leftovers, said a government spokesman, who asked not to be identified. The goodies include flight permits and airport facilities but few aircraft, since TAESA leased most of its planes. The defunct airline also has 3,500 workers who have not been formally terminated.

Neither company disclosed the amount it was willing to pay. TAESA was Mexico's third-largest airline until one of its planes crashed in the western state of Michoacan in November.

Poor maintenance and a government-ordered grounding led to bankruptcy three months later, ending domestic flights and routes to Laredo; San Antonio; and Oakland, Calif.

That ceded most of Mexico's passenger traffic to one company, Cintra SA, which controls more than 80 percent of the market through subsidiaries Aeroméxico and Mexicana airlines.

Speculation has swirled over whether anyone would try to take TAESA's place. Candidates have included Ernesto Martens, an executive who used to run Cintra, and U.S. airlines including Continental Airlines. A Continental spokesman declined to comment.

Consorcio Hispanoamericano faces the rival bid of a Mexican businessman named Leonardo Sánchez Dávalos. The winner would also confront competition from small carriers such as Aerocalifornia and Allegro Airlines.

But Mexico's commercial aviation market has enough room for a new airline, analysts say.

"Tourism is growing and business traffic continues to increase," said Francisco Suárez, an airline analyst at Banorte brokerage house in Mexico City. "Demand is growing steadily."

Staff writer Katherine Yung contributed to this report.