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AMR & US Airways CEOs Discuss Merger Options

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DALLAS (AP) — The CEOs of American Airlines parent AMR Corp. and US Airways met over breakfast Thursday to talk about potential merger scenarios.

AMR’s Thomas Horton told US Airways’ Doug Parker that he won’t be rushed into any deals and will methodically compare all offers against AMR’s plan for remaining independent, said a person familiar with the discussion. This person spoke on condition of anonymity because details of the meeting haven’t been made public.

US Airways Group Inc. said it hoped the meeting was the start of a process in which it can show the benefits of a merger between the two airlines.

Parker has conducted an unusually public campaign for a merger that would presumably result in a new company led by US Airways’ management, although he has vowed to keep the American name and headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas. He won the support of American’s labor unions, which signed conditional labor contracts that would take effect if there is a merger. Many Wall Street analysts think American’s best hope to grow and compete with bigger rivals United and Delta is through a merger.

Horton said for months that he wanted AMR to emerge from bankruptcy protection as a profitable and growing company before considering a merger, but Parker’s maneuvering may have changed that timetable.

AMR filed for bankruptcy protection in November. Horton is pursuing a plan to cut annual spending by $2 billion, with more than half coming from labor, and boost annual revenue by $1 billion.

Separately on Thursday, a U.S. bankruptcy judge in New York approved AMR’s request to extend its exclusive right to present a reorganization plan to the court until Dec. 28. The extension doesn’t rule out a merger.

AMR spokesman Michael Trevino said the company “will continue to move aggressively to complete both our plan and our comprehensive process of reviewing a range of alternatives to measure against it.”

Horton called Parker on Wednesday and set up a breakfast meeting for Thursday in Washington. There, Horton told Parker that AMR will complete its plan to reorganize as a stand-alone company and will consider alternatives including merging with another airline, said the person familiar with the meeting.

Horton said AMR would soon send nondisclosure agreements to airlines or other parties that might be interested in a merger or investment, the person said. They would need to sign the agreements to get nonpublic information about AMR’s finances.

The person declined to say how many parties would get the merger-chat invitations, and added that Horton said the list could grow as AMR’s financial strength improves.

This week, AMR reported a narrower second-quarter loss than a year ago and would have earned $95 million excluding restructuring costs — its first operating profit for the quarter since 2007.

US Airways spokesman Andrew J. Christie Jr. said the company was pleased that the meeting took place.

“No substantial progress was made,” he said, “but we hope this is the start of a meaningful, fair and transparent process that will give us the ability to demonstrate further why combining American Airlines and US Airways is in the best interests of all of our stakeholders, many of whom have already voiced their support for this merger.”

Horton and Parker have known each other since the mid-1980s when both men worked at American. In a speech at the National Press Club on Wednesday, Parker said there was nothing personal about his pursuit of Horton’s company.

“Tom and I are friends, have been friends for a long time,” Parker said. “Hopefully when this is over we will remain friends.”

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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