Amazon Clicks Buy Now On $131 Million Cargo Airline Share

Amazon continues to make strides to gain more ground, or rather, airspace, in the cargo market. The retailer has now made use of options it acquired five years ago to purchase close to 20% of airfreight operator Air Transport Services Group for $131 million. It has further warrants to buy shares in both Atlas Air and Sun Country Airlines, all Amazon Air aircraft operators.

Amazon Air 767
Amazon has taken a minority stake in one of the air freight companies that operate some of its aircraft. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

ATSG deal subject to approval from the DoT

Jeff Bezos might be taking a step back, but Amazon is not slowing down as it maneuvers its way onto the airfreight market in earnest. The e-commerce and logistics giant recently purchased Boeing 767s from WestJet and Delta Air Lines. It has now claimed a minority stake in a cargo airline that operates a portion of its all-Boeing fleet.

Amazon has paid $131 million for the acquisition of close to 13,5 million shares in Air Transport Services Group for which it had previously obtained warrants, Bloomberg reported Monday. The retailer also acquired an additional 865,000 shares for which no cash was exchanged.

All the deal’s minutiae can be found in a securities filing from Air Transport Services Group (ATSG) filed on March 5th. However, whether or not the agreement will go through is subject to approval from the US Department of Transportation (DoT). If approved, it means that Amazon will own about 19.5% of the airfreight company.

ATSG is currently operating 33 of Amazon’s jets but expects the figure to increase to 46 by the end of 2021. Amazon’s fleet, including both leased and owned aircraft, is currently comprised of 22 Boeing 737s and 52 of the widebody 767s.

Amazon Clicks Buy Now On $131 Million Cargo Airline Share
The agreement between Amazon and Air Transport Services Inc. is still contingent on DoT approval. Photo: Getty Images

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Could potentially double share

Owning that large a share of the company will give Amazon the right to appoint one member to the cargo operator’s board of directors. If Amazon was to lease more aircraft and exercise all its warrants, it could end up with ownership of 39.9%, ATSG stated in its report.

Amazon also has warrants to purchase shares in profitable Atlas Air, currently the world’s largest Boeing 747 operator, and ultra-low-cost and cargo airline Sun Country, both of which operate jets on Amazon’s behalf.

Atlas Air Boeing 747-481 N322SG
Amazon also has warrants to purchase shares in Atlas Air. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

CVG hub

Meanwhile, this is not Amazon’s only move to keep edging its way onto a growing cargo-market and become even less dependent on subcontractors to move goods from its warehouses to customers all over the world.

Amazon Air is completing a 798,000-square-foot sorting center and a parking facility to accommodate up to 20 aircraft at its principal hub at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG). It is the largest cargo construction project in the airport’s history and is expected to be completed in the fall.

How far do you think Amazon will take its airfreight ambitions? Tell us where you think it will be in five, ten years from now.