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Delta Lands in Brazil as Bankruptcy Grounds American

NEW YORK (TheStreet) - Delta (DAL) is spending $100 million to take a minority stake in Brazil's second largest airline Gol Linhas Aereas Inteligentes (GOL), in a move that shows some U.S. carriers will continue to expand aggressively while American Airlines (AMR) remains hamstrung after falling into bankruptcy.

As part of the minority investment, Delta will take a 3% stake in Gol Linhas by buying up its American depository receipt shares and will also begin a partnership arrangement that will allow both companies to book passengers on each other's planes.

The move will also pump nearly $160 million in capital to the Brazilian airline, which has seen its shares fall over 40% year-to-date.

For Delta, which is behind American Airlines and United Continental (UAL) in Latin America, the deal is a further push to gain ground against its hobbled competitor after taking a stake in Aeromexico for $65 million in August. Both deals also give Delta, the world's second largest airline, board seats.

Delta shares traded at $8.50 and were little changed in afternoon trading. The company's stock has fallen over 30% year-to-date as fuel costs and fears over consumer spending threaten earnings. The company saw profits jump 51% to $550 million in its most recent quarter, however its still to be seen whether Delta will meet estimates of $646 million in 2011 earnings and nearly $2 billion in 2012 earnings, according to seven analysts polled by Bloomberg.

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While Delta's Gol Linhas stake is a way to tap into the fast-growing Brazilian economy, the Atlanta-based company won't add Gol to its SkyTeam marketing alliance, which includes carriers like AeroMexico, Air France, China Eastern Arilines (CEA), KLM and Korean Air, among others around the world.

In Brazil, Gol Linhas is second to TAM (TAM), which was bought by Chile's Lan Airlines (LFL), the largest carrier in Latin America, for $3.3 billion in 2010.

-- Written by Antoine Gara in New York

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