The Merger Lawsuit: What Happens To The Airlines?

US Airways and American Airlines will fight the lawsuit and they have a very credible chance of winning.  However, regardless of the outcome of a lawsuit in court, real damage has been done already.

Both airlines have seen their stock prices drop considerably.  Furthermore, by making them the very public target of a Department of Justice lawsuit, real damage has been done to their business by casting them in a negative light.

American Airlines suddenly doesn’t have a bankruptcy exit plan that is viable.  Regardless of what CEO Tom Horton says about American Airlines being viable without a merger . . . it really isn’t.

Oh, it could exit and linger around for a few years.  Sure.  But creditors will get cents on the dollar, employees will lose more jobs and ultimately the next step for the airline could be a second bankruptcy.  This time a Chapter 7 filing.

Is it that gloomy for American or am I being dramatic?  Consider that the DoJ has declared war on airline mergers.  None will be entered into by other airlines for at least a considerably lengthy time.  American has no prospects to merger with other airlines either.

And American has already begun suffering a brain drain as a result of announced post merger leadership.  As an airline, its prospects are very dim going forward without a merger at this time.

US Airways can make it . . . kind of.  But I wonder if they can thrive now.  This is an extremely unfair sucker punch to the best airline management in the world presently.  How do they find another smart, viable merger partner with this swirling around the drain?

Can they win?  Yes.  The landscape is littered with precedent and our anti-trust laws are actually kind of weak compared to what people think they are.

But the economic damage will be done already and the merged entity will spend extra years trying to play catchup to 3 other airlines that will have a very, very substantial head start.

That is not the picture of competition.

And there isn’t a financial analyst out there who isn’t alarmed and appalled at this development in the airline industry.  Expect all airline stocks to suffer a while.

Furthermore, consider that airlines have just been told that their federal government does not intend to allow any future growth through mergers and acquisitions.  The path to growth organically is exceptionally expensive, time consuming and requires letting go of capacity constraint.

No one wins in that scenario.  It becomes a bloodbath.

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