Out of the blue, Spanish charter company purchased Pluna’s seven Bombardier
Out of the blue a Spanish-based air charter company, Cosmo, and seven minutes after the auction had started purchased the seven Bombardier aircraft from Uruguay’s defunct flag carrier Pluna for the base price of 137 million dollars.
The auction took place Monday early afternoon in Montevideo with great expectations given the Uruguayan government’s decision to liquidate the (1936) regional air carrier following mounting debts (at least 380 million dollars) incurred by the Argentine private partner of an association started five years earlier.
Antonio Sánchez representative of Cosmo was the only interested party that turned up with the necessary bank collateral of 13.6 million dollars. The website of his company Cosmo is “in construction” but apparently the charter company has two aircraft and flies with permits from Lithuania and Mauritania, since Spanish licences are pending.
“We don’t have a base in Uruguay; we operate from Europe and fly to Lithuania and Iceland” said Mr Sanchez to the Uruguayan journalists. Asked if the price promised to pay was not expensive, given the fact that a previous auction attempt a few weeks earlier had fallen through Mr. Sanchez simply replied that “the asking price is always high”.
At the auction ring were present representatives from the Canadian embassy, which helped the original purchase of the Canadian manufactured Bombardier for Pluna with soft loans through the Nova Scotia bank; the president of the Uruguayan travel agencies, Sergio Bañales and several lawmakers from different political parties.
Five minutes into the event and to everybody’s surprise Mr. Sanchez was the only bidder and finally after several calls for any further offers, the operation was sealed. Cosmo now has a month to complete the payment of the 137 million dollars agreed plus commission and taxes.
None of the bidders of the first round three weeks before were present: Uruguay’s BQB; Argentina’s Sol airlines; an Argentine charter company belonging to the Macri family, currently the Mayor of Buenos Aires City, nor was the promised but later denied participation of Venezuela’s Conviasa.
The 137 million dollars from the sale of the seven Bombardier CRJ 900 will go to repay the Nova Scotia bank loan, for which the Uruguayan government is the guarantor. However the defunct Pluna has pending debts with other creditors among which the provider of fuel, 28 million dollars; a Uruguayan government bank, 16 million dollars; other suppliers plus court demands from stranded passengers, travel agencies and even some of the former staff which was promised new jobs that so far have not materialized.
Under the terms of the auction Cosmo can use the aircraft in the way it estimates best for its interests and has no pending obligations with the former Pluna staff, nor with any of the creditors since the operation was closed at the opening price. Had it been at a lower price Cosmo would have been responsible for those credits.
“Speculation is over: today we have witnessed an unquestionable event”, said the Uruguayan Public Works minister Enrique Pintado at in an official statement once the 137 million dollars auction of the seven Bombardier was confirmed
Pintado added that the suspension of the (previous inconclusive) auction had proved positive because it helped to defend the value of the aircraft and “we Uruguayans should be proud of our collective capacity to transform critical situations in opportunities to change and improve the country”.
“Now we are waiting for decisions from the buyer as to the final destination of the aircraft” said Pintado recalling the four objectives established by the Uruguayan government: recover the air connectivity net Uruguay needs; defend the interests of the Uruguayan State; retain as many jobs as possible; protect the interests of the creditors.
Pintado did not take questions and gave no details of the Cosmo company or indications if they had presented a business plan.
But Javier Liberman head of the specific trust created for terminating with Pluna said he ignored the business plan of Cosmo, or if the planes would be flown to Spain since “under the terms of the auction only a collateral was demanded and there is no mention of a business plan”.