AMR Execs Hear the Drum Beat of the Hedge Fund “Strip and Sell” Mantra


We all knew this was coming when FL Group continued to build its stake in AMR.

Today FL Group said in a statement that “FL Group believes that opportunities remain to unlock shareholder value and that the AMR management team and board of directors should actively pursue all such opportunities. Simply blaming high fuel costs and investor sentiment is not a sufficient response.”

They forgot to mention the weather.

Anyway, we know how this game works. Hedge fund takes stake in airline. Hedge fund increases stake in airline. Hedge fund then starts pushing management to “unlock those assets.” (Kind of like ‘Extreme Makeover’ when they scream “Move that BUS!”)

FL Group now controls 8.25% of AMR shares.

“After taking a close look at the company over an extended period of time, our suggestions include monetizing assets, such as AAdvantage, that can be used to reduce debt or return capital to shareholders,”  FL Group CEO Hannes Smarason said in the firm’s missive.  “We believe that there is no time to lose given the recent developments in the market place.”

FL Group estimates that spinning off AAdvantage could increase shareholder value by more than $4 billion.

Terry Maxon, with the Dallas Morning News wrote about this today, adding that,

Credit Suisse airline analyst Daniel McKenzie, in a report Tuesday, estimated that AMR’s ‘noncore holdings’ could bring more than $5.5 billion, compared to AMR’s current market value of $5 billion.

‘Add $5.7B cash to this and you’ve got real value, even if we’re heading into a downturn,’ Mr. McKenzie wrote, referring to AMR’s available cash and short-term investments.

Mr. McKenzie identified the potential targets for spin-offs as AMR’s financial arm, American Beacon Advisors Inc., which runs a family of mutual funds; its regional airline unit, AMR Eagle Holding Corp.; American’s aircraft maintenance and repair operations; and AAdvantage.”

But, but, BUT.

If the airline spins off all this cash — then what is it going to tell its employees about how times are tight, raises are few and far between, and costs must be kept under control?

Same thing United Airlines is going to tell its employees when it starts racking up the bucks by selling off its parts. Only difference is at least American employees still have their pension plans intact.

For now.

Ticker: (Nasdaq:UAUA), (NYSE:AMR)

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