Page last updated at 10:04 GMT, Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Japan Airlines shares drop 45% as bankruptcy fears grow

Japan Airlines planes
There is still no apparent solution to Japan Airlines' predicament

Shares in Japan Airlines (JAL) fell by 45% to a new all-time low on Tuesday as fears grow that the carrier is heading for bankruptcy.

The fall came despite an improved offer of investment from American Airlines, up from $1bn to $1.3bn.

The US carrier is keen to link into JAL's lucrative Asian routes.

Meanwhile, JAL's current and former employees have agreed to cuts in the company's pension scheme payouts. The fund has a $3.6bn (£2.2bn) deficit.

Those cuts are crucial to the company gaining any government support.

Battle for skies

American Airlines' improved offer of help also comes with strings attached. It wants JAL to stay with the Oneworld alliance that American is also a member of, along with British Airways and Qantas.

ANALYSIS

Roland Buerk, BBC News, Tokyo

Japan's new government has been agonising for months over how to keep JAL in the air and who should pay the price for its massive debts - the taxpayer, shareholders, staff and pensioners or the banks.

A decision is emerging - all of them.

Banks that hold JAL's debt are reported to have tentatively agreed to the plan - the alternative could be a total collapse which would imperil their chances of seeing any of the money again.

Circling the mess are the global airline alliances, Oneworld and SkyTeam, which are still interested in JAL because of the access it offers to Asia.

But reports in Tokyo say both may be rejected for now as their involvement would complicate the process.

JAL has another, rival, offer of support from the US. Delta Airlines is offering $500m and wants JAL to join its SkyTeam network.

Thomas W Horton, chief financial officer of American's parent, AMR Corp, said: "While JAL and the Japanese government might decide to address capital requirements internally - and we certainly would understand and respect that - our offer of capital would be available if this was deemed an appropriate resource to aid in the restructuring of JAL."

Staff cuts

Japan Airlines applied for a government bail-out in October last year through the state-backed Enterprise Turnaround Initiative Corporation of Japan (ETIC) - a body able to draw on taxpayers' money to prop up the business while it restructures.

A decision on that is due before the end of January, but the ETIC requires cost-cutting concessions, which not only include the restructuring of pension arrangements but also potentially severe job cuts of up to a third of the company's 49,000-strong workforce.

It will then inject fresh capital into JAL, provided the airline files for bankruptcy and creditors agree to waive around 350bn yen ($3.8bn, £2.36bn) in debts.



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FROM OTHER NEWS SITES
Guardian.co.uk Japan Airlines heads for bankruptcy - 4 hrs ago
CNBC American Sweetens Support Offer for JAL - 13 hrs ago
Times Online British Airways steps in to try to salvage Japan Airlines - 13 hrs ago
BusinessWeek American, TPG Raise JAL Offer - 15 hrs ago
Reuters American sweetens offer to JAL - 15 hrs ago



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