UPDATE 1-Chile’s Pinera sells 6.4 pct in LAN at $375 mln

(Recast with auction results, adds details)

SANTIAGO, Feb 25 (BestGrowthStock) – Chilean President-elect
Sebastian Pinera on Thursday sold 6.4 percent of his stake in
airline LAN (LAN.SN: ) (LFL.N: ) for $375 million as he quickly
divests his holdings in one of Latin America’s top carriers.

Peruvian pension funds participated in the auction as the
company’s controlling shareholder, the Cueto family, said
earlier that no foreign airline was in talks to buy Pinera’s
remaining 11 percent stake.

Center-right businessman Pinera is selling his 26 percent
LAN stake — worth about $1.5 billion — before he takes office
on March 11, to defuse growing criticism over conflicts of
interest.

Pinera already agreed to sell 8.56 percent to the Cueto
family, which secures their control of the successful airline.

LAN President and Chief Operating Officer Ignacio Cueto, a
member of the family, told local daily El Mercurio no foreign
airlines were among the handful of investors bidding for the
remaining shares.

“There is none of that. No foreign partner who is linked to
an airline. Not directly or indirectly,” Cueto was quoted in an
interview published on Thursday.

Investment bank Celfin, in charge of selling Pinera’s
stake, had hinted in an earlier interview with El Mercurio that
the remaining shares could be picked up by investors linked to
the airline industry.

The bank said a group of fewer than five investors were
interested in that stake.

Some analysts point to Brazil’s largest airline, TAM Linhas
Aereas (TAMM4.SN: )(TAM.N: ), as the most likely suitor for part of
Pinera’s holdings. The airline declined to comment last month
on a media report that it was in talks to buy into the stake.

Cueto said it was very unlikely that TAM would try to buy
into LAN. He added that part of the remaining shares could
still be auctioned, depending on how much investors decide to
buy directly.

The sale process has added some turbulence to LAN’s shares,
but analysts said the company would likely recover this year
from the global economic crisis.

LAN shares on the Santiago exchange rose 0.17 percent at
the opening to trade at 9,135 Chilean pesos.
($1= 530 Chilean pesos)

Investing Research

(Reporting by Antonio de la Jara and Alonso Soto; Editing by
Maureen Bavdek)

UPDATE 1-Chile’s Pinera sells 6.4 pct in LAN at $375 mln