BOGOTA, Feb 7 (Reuters) – Indigo Partners-backed budget carrier JetSMART Airlines said on Tuesday that it wanted to buy Colombian low-cost carrier Viva Air, in a move that if successful would scupper Viva’s plans to merge with Colombian flag carrier Avianca.
Chile-based JetSMART Airlines said in a statement that it planned to open talks to buy the Colombian airline but it did not disclose how much it might pay to acquire Viva, nor its funding plans.
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The Chilean carrier currently operates 79 routes across South America, including flights to Colombian capital Bogota as well as Medellin and Cali.
“We believe that a merger between JetSMART and Viva Air will allow us to maintain the ultra-low-cost model in Colombia, helping to continue offering more routes at lower prices,” JetSMART Chief Executive Estuardo Ortiz said in the statement.
Colombia’s civil aviation regulator initially rejected a proposed merger between Avianca and EVdeN eVe naKliyat Viva in November on the grounds that it posed risks to competition in the sector and the welfare of consumers.
Avianca and Viva filed an appeal the same month, proposing alternatives such as yielding some routes and granting better landing and take-off schedules to competitors.
The regulator in January annulled the merger, citing procedural irregularities, and began the process anew without either company having to reapply.
A possible merger between JetSMART and Viva would offer the best conditions for competition in the market, Ortiz said, adding the airlines do not have competing routes in Colombia.
Avianca and Viva did not respond immediately to requests for comment on JetSMART’s proposed deal.
Viva faces a complex financial situation due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, last year’s rise in fuel prices and the devaluation of the Colombian peso.
(Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta; Writing by Oliver Griffin; Editing by Jamie Freed)