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"UAL's Tilton pitches for airline mergers"


 
Tuesday, December 12, 2006

UAL's Tilton pitches for airline mergers
By DAVE CARPENTER
The Associated Press 


CHICAGO - The head of United Airlines parent UAL Corp. said Tuesday that
consolidation in the industry is overdue but remained silent on whether his
company is pursuing a merger with another U.S. carrier.

UAL Chairman and CEO Glenn Tilton told analysts and investors that the
company will take advantage of consolidation opportunities on merits,
otherwise declining to comment specifically on one of the industry's hottest
topics.

Speculation that UAL might make a bid for Continental Airlines Inc. or Delta
Air Lines Inc. proliferated last month after Tempe, Ariz.-based US Airways
Group Inc. made an unsolicited offer for Delta. Analysts said the US Airways
offer could touch off a long-expected round of consolidation among U.S.
network carriers.

United's stock jumped Monday following an analyst's report suggesting that
UAL could unveil a specific plan in conjunction with its first Investor Day
in years, with about 75 analysts and investors gathering at a Chicago hotel
to hear several hours of scheduled financial presentations Tuesday.

But Tilton doused the speculation in his opening remarks, delivering a
familiar pitch on behalf of consolidation but without tipping his hand on
the strategy of the Elk Grove Village, Ill.-based company.

"We think it (consolidation) is good and overdue for the industry, despite
the fact that we acknowledge its difficulties," he said in remarks broadcast
on the Internet.

"With respect to our company itself and our options, we clearly are not in a
position today to comment on anything specifically other than to say that we
are going to be attentive to opportunities as they present themselves, and
on your behalf we will take advantage of one when we think it is to your
benefit," Tilton said

After rising 3.7 percent in speculative buying a day earlier, United shares
fell $1.85, or 4.2 percent, to $42.68 in morning trading on the Nasdaq Stock
Market.

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