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Continental and United Airlines to Merge

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Continental and United Airlines are merging to create one of the world’s largest airlines. Both airlines are already members of Star Alliance.

Glenn Tilton, chairman, president and chief executive officer of UAL Corp., will serve as non-executive chairman of the combined company’s Board of Directors through 31 December 2012 or the second anniversary of closing, whichever is later. Jeff Smisek, Continental’s chairman, president and chief executive officer, will be chief executive officer and a member of the Board of Directors. He will also become executive chairman of the Board upon Tilton’s ceasing to be non-executive chairman.

The combined company’s management team is expected to include a balanced selection of executives from each company with the intention that each company will contribute roughly equal numbers. In addition to Smisek and Tilton, the 16-member Board of Directors will include six independent directors from each of the two companies and two union directors required by United’s charter.

The holding company for the new entity will be named United Continental Holdings, Inc. and the name of the airline will be United Airlines. The marketing brand will be a combination of the brands of both companies. Aircraft will have the Continental livery, logo and colors but will carry the United name, and the announcement campaign slogan will be “Let’s Fly Together”.

 The new company’s corporate and operational headquarters will be in Chicago and it will maintain a significant presence in Houston, which will be the combined company’s largest hub. Additionally, the CEO will maintain offices in both Chicago and Houston.

Tilton said, “Today is a great day for our customers, our employees, our shareholders and our communities as we bring together our two companies in a merger of equals to create a world-class and truly global airline with an unparalleled network serving communities worldwide with outstanding customer service. Building on our Star Alliance partnership, we are creating a stronger, more efficient airline, both operationally and financially, better positioned to succeed in a dynamic and highly competitive global aviation industry. This combination will provide a strong platform for sustainable, long-term value for shareholders, opportunities for employees, and more and better scheduled service and destinations for customers. Knowing and respecting our colleagues at Continental as we do, we are confident that together we can compete successfully in what is now, clearly, a global marketplace.”

The combination of United and Continental brings together two complementary networks, with minimal domestic and no international route overlaps. The combined company will have 10 hubs, including hubs in the four largest cities in the United States. Together, Continental and United serve more than 144 million passengers per year as they fly to 370 destinations in 59 countries.

The airline said that the effect of the merger on front-line employees will be "minimal, with reductions coming principally from retirements, attrition and voluntary programs".

On a pro forma basis, the combined company would have annual revenues of approximately $29 billion based on 2009 financial results, and an unrestricted cash balance of approximately $7.4 billion as of the end of first quarter 2010, including United’s recently closed financing transaction.

In the merger, Continental shareholders will receive 1.05 shares of United common stock for each Continental common share they own. United shareholders would own approximately 55% of the equity of the combined company and Continental shareholders would own approximately 45%, including in-the-money convertible securities on an as-converted basis.

The merger is expected to deliver $1.0 billion to $1.2 billion in net annual synergies by 2013, including between $800 million and $900 million of incremental annual revenues, in large part from expanded customer options resulting from the greater scope and scale of the network, and additional international service enabled by the broader network of the combined carrier. Expected synergies are in addition to the significant benefits derived from the companies’ existing alliance and expected from their future joint venture relationships. The combined company is also expected to realize between $200 million and $300 million of net cost synergies on a run-rate basis by 2013. One-time costs related to the transaction are expected to total approximately $1.2 billion spread over a three-year period.

The merger, which has been approved unanimously by the Boards of Directors of both companies, is conditioned on approval by the shareholders of both companies, receipt of regulatory clearance, and customary closing conditions. The companies expect to complete the transaction in the fourth quarter of 2010. During the period between signing and closing of the merger, the CEOs of both companies will lead a transition team, which will develop a specific integration plan. 

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