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Don't Buy Those JetBlue Merger Rumors

The airline industry doesn't seem to like actual mergers all that much, but it obviously loves merger talk.

The latest theory to pop up involves JetBlue (JBLU) and Delta (DAL). To some, David Neeleman's move last week to step down as CEO portends a merger, the idea being that the company's founder didn't want to see his baby absorbed by another carrier.

It has a certain, limited logic. JetBlue has two valuable assets -- a strong position at New York's Kennedy Airport and new Airbus A320s. Delta is growing at Kennedy. For that matter, so is AMR's (AMR) American. And everybody needs newer airplanes.

Trying to figure out whether somebody might acquire JetBlue is fun -- as they say, it beats working. At the same time, there's no indication that JetBlue has any desire to be bought, or that anyone has any real desire to buy it.

When the merger question was raised during last month's earnings conference call, Neeleman said there have been "no conversations with a legacy carrier about acquiring the airline." He added that "I would reiterate that would not be something that we would want." Now Neeleman is out as CEO. Hmm.

Actually, several merger and buyout ideas have surfaced in recent weeks, some of which were floated by respected analysts.

Last month, Roger King of CreditSights suggested that Southwest (LUV) would be a good takeout candidate. "A Southwest Airlines LBO is a no-brainer in the current financial market," he wrote in a research report.

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