Author: Gordon Platt
COMPANY TO WATCH: COPA HOLDINGS/PANAMA


Panama, a natural transportation hub with its famous canal, has become an air-transport center for the Americas, thanks to its national flag carrier, Copa Airlines. The fast-growing airline with a young fleet of aircraft (average age 3.7 years) currently offers about 126 daily scheduled flights to 41 destinations in 21 countries in the Americas. In 2004 and 2006 it was named “Best Airline in Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean” by British consultancy Skytrax.

On December 15, 2005, Copa Holdings, the parent company of Copa Airlines, had an initial public offering and listed its shares on the New York Stock Exchange. Earlier that year, it purchased 90% of Colombian domestic air carrier AeroRepública.

Citi has identified Copa Airlines as its top 12-month pick among Latin America-based airlines. The bank notes that, with its fast-growing economy, Panama is likely to attain an investment-grade rating in the second half of 2009. Panama’s gross domestic product is expected to grow about 9% this year, following similar growth in 2007.

With its Miami-like skyline, Panama is experiencing a real estate boom, and major construction projects are under way, including a $6 billion expansion of the Panama Canal.


Gordon Platt