BA and Iberia finally land $7bn merger agreement

Agreement signed late last night after day of talks; British jobs to go in €400m cost-saving deal

British Airways last night confirmed that it will merge with the Spanish flag carrier Iberia in a $7bn (£4.2bn) deal, creating the world's third biggest airline. The announcement comes after a day when the boards of both companies were locked in separate meetings, combing through the fine details of the plans which have been under discussion for nearly 18 months.

Under the terms of a binding agreement signed yesterday, BA will take control of 55 per cent of the combined group, rising to 56 per cent when cross shareholdings held by the two companies are cancelled next year.

Willie Walsh, BA's chief executive will become the head of the new BA-Iberia, while Iberia's chief executive and chairman, Antonio Vazquez is set to be appointed chairman. The deal is expected to be signed in late 2010.

The two airlines will be operated separately under a new holding company, presently known as called TopCo, which will be a Spanish incorporated entity registered in Madrid and will be tax resident in Spain. The operating and financial group will be based in London. The shares will also trade on the London Stock Exchange. It had been suggested earlier that BA would have to concede London as the new group's headquarters to Madrid.

"This is a merger of equals and BA is very pleased that the group will be headquartered and listed in London," Mr Walsh said last night. "The merger will create a strong European airline well able to compete in the 21st century. Both airlines will retain their brands and heritage while achieving significant synergies as a combined force."

One potential sticking point had been BA's burgeoning pension deficit, which is thought to stand at about £3bn. Mr Walsh stressed that the BA operating company would be solely responsible for the deficit, answering "no, no, no," when asked if Iberia shareholders could become equally liable for the deficit once the deal was concluded.

BA's closest rival, Virgin Atlantic, last night warned that regulators needed to be alert to BA's growing dominance.

Earlier in the day both companies had heightened speculation that a deal was imminent by confirming that the board meetings were taking place in London and Madrid. The City was encouraged by news of an imminent deal yesterday afternoon, with BA's shares closing the day up 7.5 per cent at 215p.

Despite BA's far superior revenues, Chris Yates, an independent aviation analyst, said that BA was the major beneficiary of the merger. "It is clear that Iberia is the poor cousin in this arrangement. BA will get a significant boost from this deal, especially in relation to the Latin American market, where it has very little presence. There are also considerable synergies."

Mr Walsh said savings from the combination would reach €400m (£359m) by the fifth year of deal, warning that a number of jobs would be lost in Britain.

Both groups have been hit hard by falling demand air travel in the last 18 months, as well as by passengers' moving to low-cost airlines. BA in particular has struggled to attract high margin business-class passengers.

The deal comes after a number of aborted attempts by BA to forge mergers with other carriers. In the last year it has tried to form an alliance with Australian group Qantas, which collapsed soon after exploratory talks were opened, and with American Airlines. The AA discussions have continued, but are now being investigated by the various competition authorities, a hurdle the same deal has floundered on in the past.

Mr Walsh argued last night that while the BA and Iberia deal would require clearance, the two have been sharing popular routes between the UK and Spain for a number of years.

BA and Iberia: Marriage of convenience

The merger deal between British Airways and Iberia, which was finally signed last night after 18 months of talks, represents a personal triumph for BA's chief executive Willie Walsh after he was confirmed as group chief executive of the combined company. He can also claim victory by securing London as the holding company's new headquarters, even if the group will be incorporated in Madrid.

It had been thought that Mr Walsh's personal triumph would come at the cost of the BA-Iberia being run from Spain.

Antonio Vazquez, Iberia's chairman and chief executive, will be the chairman of the combined company after winning credit for having got the deal back on track after his appointment in July. BA's chairman Martin Broughton will be deputy chairman of the merged airline.

How a deal took flight

December 1999 BA and American Airlines take 10 per cent stake in Iberia as Spanish flag carrier is privatised

December 2003 Brussels gives green light for BA/Iberia operating alliance in the European Union

September 2004 BA's sale of £425m Qantas stake renews deal speculation

November 2006 BA buys out AA

March 2007 Texas Pacific Group makes tentative €3.4bn offer for Iberia. BA joins consortium, but the talks are ended in November

July 2008 BA admits it is in talks with Iberia about an all-share merger

May 2009 Iberia's concerns over BA pension stall talks

July 2009 Iberia chairman Fernando Conte quits, renewing hopes of a deal

November 2009 British Airways and Iberia announce deal

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
News
news
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
New Articles
i100... with this review
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
Sport
footballTim Sherwood: This might be th match to wake up Manchester City
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
New Articles
i100
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
News
Blahnik says: 'I think I understand the English more than they do themselves'
people
Arts and Entertainment
Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey
TVInside Downton Abbey series 5
Life and Style
The term 'normcore' was given the oxygen of publicity by New York magazine during the autumn/winter shows in Paris in February
fashionWhen is a trend a non-trend? When it's Normcore, since you ask
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    USA/Florida Travel Consultants £30-50k OTE Essex

    Basic of £18,000 + commission, realistic OTE of £30-£50k : Ocean Holidays: Le...

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Sales Account Manager

    £15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...

    Day In a Page

    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam