Continental Airlines Inc., which already is in preliminary talks with United Airlines parent UAL Corp. about a possible merger, also discussed a potential tie-up with American Airlines parent AMR Corp., people familiar with the situation said. The talks were exploratory, and it isn't clear they will go further, these people said.
Houston-based Continental has said it prefers to remain independent unless the competitive landscape changes and its rivals pair up. The carrier for now is precluded from merging with another airline because Northwest can block such a move by virtue of holding a "golden share" in Continental. But if Northwest agrees to merge with Delta or another airline, Continental could buy back that blocking preferred stock for a nominal fee and be free to chart its own course, even if Northwest's own deal later fell apart.
AMR Chief Financial Officer Tom Horton told analysts last month that given the industry's history of losses and fragmented state, "we do think consolidation has the potential to create efficiencies and expand product offerings and benefit the industry and consumers." Mr. Horton noted that American has an active history of purchasing assets from other carriers and bought Reno Air and Trans World Airlines Inc. outright.
@ Wall Street Journal