American to invest US$200 mn in expanded venture with Brazil-based airline GoI Linhas Aéreas

American Airlines Group Inc has reportedly signed a letter of intent (LoI) to invest US$200 million in Gol Linhas Aéreas Inteligentes SA under a three-year deal that would expand their commercial cooperation, establish an exclusive codeshare and link loyalty programs.

The agreement builds on an initial marketing, or codeshare, established in 2020 after a previous South American partner was snatched away from American by Delta Air Lines Inc, says Bloomberg news. It will allow customers to travel to more than 30 cities served by American in the US and over 20 new destinations served by Gol in South America. The expanded relationship follows American’s agreement to buy a stake in JetSmart Airlines SpA, a privately held, low-cost carrier based in Chile.

The two will work together in areas including purchasing, sales tools and systems integration as allowed by regulatory and other limits, American was quoted stating. The US carrier will invest in 22.2 million newly issued Gol preferred shares in exchange for a 5.2% “participation in the company’s economic interest,” and will gain the right to name a director to the Brazilian airline’s board.

A spokesperson for American Airlines did not immediately respond to a request to clarify the share ownership, as reported by Bloomberg.

Gol shares traded in New York rose 4.7% at 9:45 AM on Wednesday, while American slid less than 1% to US$19.15.

“Investors are likely to view today’s news as a major positive for Gol,” Josh Milberg, a Morgan Stanley analyst, said in a report. “It is a substantial show of confidence by American in Gol’s future.”

American’s investment “suggests that the US carrier could be a source of additional financial support for Gol if needed in the future,” he said.

“We believe that this will bolster Gol’s presence in international markets, accelerate our long-term growth and maximise value for our shareholders,” Gol Chief Executive Officer Paulo Kakinoff said in a statement. “It adds to our confidence in the company’s growth as the economy reopens and travel demand increases.”

Pandemic Rebound

Gol was expecting to report total liquidity of 4.2 billion reais (US$799 million) in the fourth quarter as it recovers from the decline in travel during the coronavirus pandemic. That may now jump to about 5.2 billion reais, Bradesco BBI analyst Victor Mizusaki estimates.

This “should be enough to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic,” he wrote in a report, reiterating a neutral rating for the stock but increasing his price target to 27 reais from 26.

American will pay US$9 per preferred share as of Tuesday, Gol said. Other holders of the airline’s preferred shares, including those traded as American depositary receipts, will be able to exercise preemptive rights to subscribe for a portion of the newly issued shares, it said in the statement.

Early next year, American’s AAdvantage and Gol’s SMILES loyalty program members will gain access to benefits such as priority check-in, security and boarding, lounge access and a larger checked bag allowance.

The letter of intent must be finalised and receive regulatory and other approvals.

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