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Delta Reviews Options, Denies UAL Merger Talk

Delta Air Lines, the No. 3 U.S. carrier, said ednesday it has established a special board committee to help management review its strategic options, including mergers.

But the company denied reports that there were ongoing talks to merge with United Airlines parent UAL.

"There have been no talks with United regarding any type of consolidation transaction and there are no such ongoing discussions," Chief Executive Richard Anderson said in a statement.

The new Delta committee comes as record oil prices threaten to derail the fledgling recovery in the U.S. airline industry, which suffered years of losses due to high costs and brutal competition.

"With oil at over $90 a barrel, this analysis (of consolidation options) takes on a heightened importance as we factor those prices into our long-term planning process," Chief Executive Richard Anderson said in a statement.

"Delta believes that the right consolidation transaction could generate significant value for our shareholders and employees," added Anderson, who has said that Delta is interested in being an acquirer.

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Delta also said it has retained financial and legal advisors to assist in the review. The special board committee is headed by Daniel Carp, Delta's nonexecutive chairman.

The move to establish a special committee and hire advisors comes amid increased shareholder pressure on U.S. airlines.

Hedge fund Pardus Capital Management, which holds shares in Delta and UAL, has urged the two carriers to merge.

A Delta-United merger would be "the most attractive and practical combination," Pardus President Karim Samii and Principal Shane Larson said in a letter sent to Delta on Tuesday.

United's Pacific presence, hubs in Los Angeles and San Francisco, and slots at London's Heathrow airport would match well with Delta and provide "the service breadth to win more business and international travelers," said the letter that was sent to CEO Anderson, Chairman Carp and Delta President Ed Bastian.

Delta said it appreciated receiving Pardus' views.

UAL was not immediately available for comment.

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