J. P. Morgan has updated a report assessing the liquidity and balance-sheet health of U.S. airlines, and it finds Northwest Airlines second most likely to file for reorganization under Chapter 11 bankruptcy. If you’ll recall my introduction to airline antitrust, the Justice Department looks more kindly on a merger if one of the parties is about to fail. But in answer to the above question, a potential Chapter 11 by NWA would not move its merger with Delta along because it does not meet the following conditions:
1) the allegedly failing firm would be unable to meet its financial obligations in the near future; 2) it would not be able to reorganize successfully under Chapter ll of the Bankruptcy Act; 3) it has made unsuccessful good-faith efforts to elicit reasonable alternative offers of acquisition of the assets of the failing firm that would both keep its tangible and intangible assets in the relevant market and pose a less severe danger to competition than does the proposed merger; and 4) absent the acquisition, the assets of the failing firm would exit the relevant market.
Northwest may be cash-flow-weak right now, but it’s nowhere near ready for the “failing firm” provision of the Horizontal Merger Guidelines. Nothing to see here, folks.