(Adds statements from lawsuit, comment from Kingsland)
March 27 Colombian airline Avianca
countersued its No. 2 shareholder on Monday, escalating a battle
over a plan by top shareholder Synergy Group Corp to forge an
alliance with United Continental Holdings Inc.
Avianca's motion seeks to dismiss claims in a lawsuit filed
by Kingsland Ltd in February and opposes Kingsland’s motion for
an injunction filed earlier this month to stop the United
negotiations by Synergy, which holds 78 percent of Avianca
"Avianca has at all times performed its role under the
parties’ shareholder agreement, while Kingsland has explicitly
breached its obligations," a statement issued by the company
said. "Avianca points out that Kingsland’s legal maneuvers are a
heavy-handed attempt to obtain greater rights in the courtroom
than it previously negotiated for and agreed to in the parties’
The countersuit by Avianca asks the court for an order
preventing Kingsland from any further dissemination of the
company’s "confidential information, requiring Kingsland to
comply with the dispute resolution section of the parties’
shareholder agreement, and requiring Kingsland’s representatives
to cease interfering with the shareholder agreement."
The countersuit names Roberto José Kriete, Kingsland's
chairman, as a defendant, calling him a "disloyal director who
has worked actively to undermine the company’s strategic goals,
all for his own selfish purposes."
Representatives from Kingsland said they were still
reviewing the filing, but said the company stands by the
allegations in its lawsuit and "firmly believe that Kingsland
has complied with all its obligations under the shareholders
agreement and otherwise and reject any assertion that Mr. Kriete
has acted improperly in any way."
Kingsland and Avianca were set to meet in New York State
Supreme Court on Tuesday so a judge could rule on Kingland's
petition for a preliminary injunction. However, representatives
told Reuters the court date had been moved to April 6.
Kingsland, which holds about 22 percent of Avianca's voting
shares and 14 percent of total shares, said in the February
lawsuit it is seeking "injunctive relief to prevent the cabal of
insiders that controls Avianca ... from proceeding with their
unlawful attempt to ram through the egregiously one-sided United
Transaction in order to divert hundreds of millions of dollars
to themselves in violation of their fiduciary and contractual
Synergy is the holding company of Bolivian entrepreneur
German Efromovich and Kingsland's lawsuit specifically names him
as a defendant, though he is not listed as a plaintiff in
Monday's countersuit on behalf of Avianca.
(Reporting by Dion Rabouin; Editing by Marguerita Choy and Lisa