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ANA gains creditor backing to lead bankrupt Skymark's turnaround plan

This file photo taken on July 14, 2015 shows an All Nippon Airways (ANA) Boeing 787 passenger jet taking off from Haneda International Airport in Tokyo.

[TOKYO] ANA Holdings Inc won the backing of creditors to lead a turnaround of bankrupt Japanese discount carrier Skymark Airlines Inc, defeating a rival plan that proposed Delta Air Lines as its sponsor.

The victory is set to give Japan's largest carrier access to Skymark's 36 landing and take-off slots at Tokyo's popular Haneda airport, helping it cement its growing domestic dominance over Japan Airlines.

For debt holders seeking to recoup their money, ANA is less risky than Delta, a creditor told Reuters ahead of the Wednesday vote.

ANA has a track record of operating airlines in Japan, has already discussed business plans with Skymark and other stakeholders and is close to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government, he added, declining to be identified due to the sensitivity of the matter.

More than 170 creditors voted in two rounds - the first where each vote was weighted to the amount each creditor is owed, while the second gave each creditor an equal vote. ANA, which has offered to buy a 16.5 percent stake in Skymark, won a majority of votes in each round, creditors said.

The result still needs to be approved by Japan's Civil Aviation Bureau and other stakeholders, including Skymark's financial backer, private equity firm Integral Corp.

Skymark's finances were stretched by an ambitious expansion programme, including plans to fly Airbus A380 superjumbos on overseas routes. Unable to keep up with payments for the A380s, Skymark opted for bankruptcy in January after Airbus scrapped the sale and demanded a US$710 million cancellation fee.

Airbus, Skymark's second-biggest creditor, sided with ANA, sources with knowledge of the matter told Reuters earlier in the day.

Tokyo District Court has recognized liabilities of 152.2 billion yen (S$1.66 billion) while a further 157 billion yen remain under dispute.

For Delta, the decision is a lost opportunity to gain a base at Asia's second-busiest hub and a bigger presence in Japan where it does not have an alliance partner.

The Delta plan was put forward by leasing firm Intrepid Aviation, Skymark's biggest creditor, after it fell out with ANA over prospects for a leasing deal.