With shares of US Airways (NYSE: LCC) down 9.5% on volume that is more than 11 times the daily average, it is probably a good thing that airline ETFs no longer exist. Chances are those funds, if they were alive today, would be getting clobbered on news that the Justice Department is attempting to block the merger of US Airways and AMR Corp. (OTC: AAMRQ), the parent company of American Airlines.
Shares of AMR, which have been relegated to over-the-counter trading because the company is bankrupt, are off 50% today. Those types of declines would no doubt be pressuring the Direxion Airline Shares Fund and the Guggenheim Airline ETF if those funds were around today. They are not, perhaps much to the chagrin of eager short sellers. Direxion, known primarily for its lineup of leveraged ETFs, shuttered its airline ETF in late 2011.
Guggenheim announced the closure of nine ETFs in February and its airline fund, which traded under the ticker “FAA,” was among that group. FAA went to the ETF graveyard in mid-March. [Guggenheim Closing Nine ETFs]
A US Air/American marriage, valued at $11 billion, would create the world’s largest airline. Whether or not a “good” airline will be created is debatable. American has the worst on-time performance of major U.S. carriers, according to Forbes. SkyTrax, a provider of air travel ratings and reviews, has three-star ratings on American and U.S. Air
While executives from both companies assert the merger would increase industry competition, the Justice Department does not see things that way. “The Justice Department said its lawsuit seeks to preserve competition, especially because the two airlines have said they can succeed as independent companies,” Reuters reported.
DoJ was also careful to note that a settlement was not a plausible option, indicating that if the government gets its way, US Air and American will be force to operate as separate carriers. Industry observers expected the deal to get approved, particularly after the European Union approved it. However, DoJ pointed out that if US Air and American combine, four airlines would control 80% of the U.S. air travel market, according to Reuters.