(Updates with share price in second paragraph, Rivas quote in fourth paragraph.)
Sept. 27 (Bloomberg) -- Avianca Taca Holding SA will pay about $500 million for four Airbus SAS cargo planes as the owner of Colombia’s largest airline by sales positions itself for a U.S. approval of a free trade accord with the South American nation, said Chief Executive Officer Fabio Villegas.
Avianca’s Tampa Cargo SA unit will begin using the Airbus A330-200F planes in December 2012, Villegas told reporters today in Bogota. Avianca shares rose 1.9 percent to 4,505 pesos at 3:02 p.m. New York time.
Avianca began renting this month a Boeing 767-300 F-ER as the company seeks to boost cargo sales and profits by opening new routes including flights between Los Angeles and Montevideo, Uruguay, and between New York and Santiago, Chile, Villegas said. The company’s cargo fleet also includes four 767-200SF-ER made by Boeing Co.
“We now have the capacity to serve the whole American continent,” said Victor Mejia Rivas, Avianca’s vice president of cargo.
It is “very possible” that Avianca will make an acquisition in the region within the next three years aimed at expanding its cargo business, Rivas told Bloomberg News, without giving further details.
The Airbus planes will allow the company, which has a Miami cargo hub, to maintain or increase its 35 percent market share of Colombian aerial exports to the U.S., Rivas said. Flowers account for about 70 percent of Colombia’s exports via air to the U.S. by volume, Rivas said.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said on Sept. 22 he expects U.S. lawmakers will approve the proposed free trade pact with Colombia by mid-October.
--With assistance from Heather Walsh in Bogota. Editors: Marie- France Han, Glenn J. Kalinoski
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