US Airways Group Inc. (LCC) Chairman and Chief Executive Doug Parker said Friday he is "highly confident" his airline will close its merger with American Airlines, which antitrust regulators are trying to block.
The $11 billion deal, which would create the world's biggest airline by passenger traffic, was expected to have closed by Monday. But, as Mr. Parker said, "we got thrown a little curveball by the Department of Justice."
"We will close. I'm highly confident of that," he added.
Speaking at a gathering of restructuring advisers--including the attorneys and other experts who worked on American's Chapter 11 case--in Washington, Mr. Parker defended the merger and the competitive benefits he says it will bring ahead of a Nov. 25 antitrust trial.
"Neither American nor US Airways today can compete individually against the networks of Delta and United," he said. "By combining the two networks, we're able to offer more, and better, options for travelers."
Mr. Parker said in addition to shareholders and customers, the merger will also benefit employees of both airlines.
"We have so many people working for us. That's all they want," he said.
The speech, scheduled before the Department of Justice filed its antitrust suit in August, was to have been a victory lap for Mr. Parker, who spent months extolling the virtues of a merger.
American parent AMR Corp. (AAMRQ) filed for Chapter 11 protection in November 2011, a little less than a decade after its competitors used bankruptcy to trim their labor costs and other liabilities. The company sought a standalone restructuring from the get-go, even as Mr. Parker began beating the drums for a tie-up.
His early and sustained efforts gained traction as American's three unions--the Allied Pilots Association, Association of Professional Flight Attendants and the Transport Workers Union--threw their weight behind the merger early last year, and American eventually followed.
"There's no time to wait, and I'm glad we didn't," Mr. Parker said. "Had we let momentum get behind the standalone plan, I think we'd be in a very different position."
The bankruptcy court approved the merger in March and last month confirmed American's bankruptcy-exit plan, which proposes to give 72% of the stock in the merged airline to AMR shareholders, unsecured creditors, labor unions and certain employees. US Airways shareholders would get the remaining shares.
The merger would see Mr. Parker keep his chief executive position, while AMR's current CEO, Tom Horton, would become nonexecutive chairman for several months after the merger.
(Dow Jones Daily Bankruptcy Review covers news about distressed companies and those under bankruptcy protection. Go to http://dbr.dowjones.com)
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October 04, 2013 14:35 ET (18:35 GMT)Copyright (c) 2013 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.