Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Antitrust concerns cloud Midwest buyout

Growing -- and understandable -- antitrust concerns could doom the planned buyout of Midwest Airlines by TPG Capital.

The problem is that TPG would wind up owning 53% of Midwest with the other 47% owned by Northwest Airlines which not all that long ago mounted a thinly-veiled but unsuccessful campaign to bury Midwest.

In a classic the-enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend move, Midwest got in bed with Northwest and TPG when AirTran made a hostile takeover attempt.

Northwest understandably would want to keep AirTran out of Milwaukee where Northwest is the number two carrier.

However, Northwest also snubbed Milwaukee passengers. While it increased service briefly in an attempt to kill off ailing Midwest, when that effort failed it reduced Milwaukee service to less than what it was before that aborted plan.

Northwest supposedly will have no say so in how Midwest is run. Supposedly.

47% is a huge chunk and Northwest has an option to eventually buy out TPG. That's good reason for antitrust regulators to blow the whistle on the deal and, at a minimum, reduce the Northwest ownership with no option for an eventual Northwest buyout. Northwest also needs to increase its Milwaukee service.

AirTran wasn't the right "fit" for Midwest but neither is anything that would reduce competition.

More on the story here.

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