CORRECTED-Aeromexico at heart of Mexico collusion probe - sources
(Corrects spelling of unit to Aerolitoral, not Aeroliteral, in 8th paragraph)
By Christine Murray and Jeffrey Dastin
MEXICO CITY/NEW YORK, July 9 (Reuters) - Mexico's largest airline, Grupo Aeromexico, is at the center of a price and market-fixing investigation being led by the country's competition authority, which conducted a dawn raid on the airline's head office earlier this year, two people with knowledge of the matter told Reuters.
Competition regulator Cofece has asked Aeromexico for information about its alliance agreements with other airlines, the sources said. The people declined to be named because specifics of the investigation have not been made public.
Reuters could not verify with whom Aeromexico might be suspected of having colluded. The carrier is part of the SkyTeam Alliance, has numerous code-sharing agreements, and is currently trying to get approval for an antitrust exemption for a joint venture with Delta Air Lines, which owns a small stake in the Mexican carrier.
The U.S. Department of Justice has launched a similar but separate investigation into whether U.S. airlines have worked together illegally to keep airfares high by signaling plans to limit flights.
The Mexican investigation could serve as a test case for the country's new competition law, which aims to break up heavily concentrated sectors such as banking, telecommunications and transport. It also means that alliances between airlines are being put under a microscope.
Earlier this year, officials from Cofece turned up at Aeromexico's Mexico City headquarters without prior warning as part of the investigation, the people said. The investigators were there until early the next morning making copies of documents and hard drives to take away.
A spokesman for Aeromexico declined to answer questions about the investigation and referred to a company filing after Cofece's April announcement in which it said it would cooperate with authorities. Continuación...