Delta union leader says merger near


Published: Thursday, January 10, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 10, 2008 at 12:00 a.m.

ATLANTA - A combination involving Delta Air Lines Inc. may be close, the head of the carrier's pilots union said in a letter to rank-and-file members Wednesday.

Lee Moak, chairman of the union's executive committee, said in the letter that "consolidation may indeed be at our door.''

He added later in the letter, "While the bankruptcy threat is now behind us, the potential for a consolidating event is every bit as real.''

Moak said union leaders are meeting in Atlanta this week in part to discuss "the fact that our company may soon be involved in some form of industry consolidation.''

Moak noted in the letter that fuel prices are at record highs and Delta's stock price since the company emerged from Chapter 11 last April has fallen dramatically, at one point as much as 45 percent. Its shares soared nearly 15 percent in trading Wednesday.

Moak did not say in the letter how the union is aware Delta may be close to a merger. The pilots union has a representative on Delta's board of directors.

Moak did not provide any specifics on a possible merger involving Atlanta-based Delta, but he said the union has retained legal counsel specializing in the field of mergers and auisitions, and he has reactivated the union's strike preparedness committee.

Moak reiterated that the pilots union would support a merger involving Delta under the right circumstances.

Delta spokeswoman Betsy Talton declined to comment Wednesday on Moak's letter beyond restating what Delta has previously said regarding consolidation.

Delta, the nation's third-largest carrier, has said its board is evaluating whether to enter into a deal to combine with another airline.

In November, Delta denied reports that it was talking to UAL Corp.'s United Airlines about a combination. Since then, it has said little about the issue. Some analysts have suggested recently that a Delta-Northwest combination may be possible.

Delta is scheduled to release its fourth-quarter and year-end results Jan. 23. Its shares rose just under 5 percent in electronic trading after hours on Wednesday.

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