Continental Airlines, Inc. (NYSE: CAL) today announced that it has contributed $100 million in shares of common stock of ExpressJet Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: XJT) to Continental`s defined benefit pension plan. The contribution is in addition to Continental`s pension plan contributions earlier this year, bringing its year-to-date pension contribution to $269 million, and significantly exceeding the company`s minimum contribution requirements for 2003. The contribution boosts plan assets to over $1.1 billion.
“Unlike our competitors, we are not asking the government to solve our pension issues, we are handling it ourselves,” said Continental Chairman and CEO Gordon Bethune. “By working hard to fulfill our pension obligations, we are doing the right thing for our employees.”
The shares of ExpressJet Holdings, Inc. common stock contributed to the plan are freely tradable by the plan and were valued by a nationally prominent independent valuation expert hired by the plan`s independent fiduciary. That independent fiduciary will be responsible for future decisions regarding any disposition of the XJT shares held by the plan.
Continental`s contribution of XJT shares reduces Continental`s percentage ownership of XJT from approximately 44 to approximately 31 percent. Due to new accounting rules (Interpretation 46, “Consolidation of Variable Interest Entities”), the company will continue to consolidate the financial results of ExpressJet until the combined interest held by the pension plan and Continental in XJT falls below 41 percent.
Continental Airlines is the world`s seventh-largest airline with 2,300 daily departures to 134 domestic and 92 international destinations. Continental has the broadest global route network of any U.S. airline, including extensive service throughout the Americas, Europe and Asia. Continental has hubs serving New York, Houston, Cleveland and Guam, and carries approximately 41 million passengers per year on the newest jet fleet among major U.S. airlines.