Japan's Skymark Airlines seeks 'business sponsor' in bankruptcy

[TOKYO] Japan's Skymark Airlines Inc is looking for a "business sponsor" to help it emerge from bankruptcy, a move that could eventually give control of the fiercely independent budget carrier to its rivals.

Japan's biggest budget airline, which sought protection from creditors last week, said a sponsor could help it cut costs and increase revenue, according to a Jan 28 court filing seen by Reuters on Tuesday.

The filing does not name any potential sponsors but refers to fuel and aircraft-leasing arrangements that suggest the sponsor could be rival carriers including Japan's two big carriers, ANA Holdings and Japan Airlines Co (JAL).

Gaining control of Skymark will give a sponsor airline access to its valuable landing rights at Tokyo's crowded Haneda airport. The discount carrier holds 36 landing slots at Japan's main domestic hub.

Last week, Japanese fund Integral Corp offered to rescue Skymark, while ANA, the country's biggest carrier, has said it was waiting for more information before deciding on whether it would take part in any bailout package.

In the filing, Skymark said that it could cut costs through joint fuel purchases and boost revenue by jointly selling tickets "if a business sponsor is chosen at an early date".

A Skymark spokesman said his company is not in a position to comment on the court filing. A lawyer representing Skymark's bankruptcy proceeding was not immediately available for comment.

Skymark filed for protection from creditors with total liabilities of 71.09 billion yen.

According to the filing, GE Capital Aviation Services Ltd, a unit of General Electric Co, is owed the most at US$125.1 million, followed by AWAS Aviation Trading Ltd at US$116.5 million. Both companies are based in Dublin.

The next biggest creditors are the California-based Aviation Capital Group Corp, owed US$63.4 million, and aircraft lessor Babcock & Brown Aircraft Management LLC, a unit of Babcock & Brown Ltd, owed US$63.0 million.

Skymark's biggest domestic creditor is the Civil Aviation Bureau of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, owed 2.92 billion yen (US$24.9 million).


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