20061227 americanairlines 71645128 18
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MARK AUSTIN THOMAS: Viking raiders have boarded the world's biggest airline. An investment fund from Iceland called the FL Group has bought a stake in American Airlines. From the European desk, Stephen Beard reports.


STEPHEN BEARD: FL group has bought a stake of almost six percent in American. The holding, worth around $400 million, makes FL the third largest shareholder in the U.S. carrier.

A full takeover bid is out of the question. Foreign investors are limited to a stake of 25 percent in U.S. airlines.

But FL is clearly expecting more merger activity within the US. The $8.3 billion bid for Delta has created a state of flux. Some analysts expect that US regulators may allow consolidation among the big six network carriers.

Kevin Done of the Financial Times says FL is obviously out for a quick profit.

KEVIN DONE: FL Group's track record would suggest that it sees stakes in airlines very much as a trading investment. They're willing to get in, they're willing to get out again when the moment is right and the money is there to be taken.

The Icelandic company knows the aviation industry well and made $190 million after a staging a raid on the British low-cost carrier Easy Jet.

In London, this is Stephen Beard for Marketplace.