Qantas targeted in takeover bid

22-11-2006

Qantas targeted in takeover bid
Australian airline Qantas has confirmed that it has received a takeover approach from the Macquarie Bank and the Texas Pacific Group, a US buy-out company.

Confirmation of an offer follows reports that a consortium led by Macquarie, an Australian merchant bank, was planning to make a takeover bid worth up to AUS$10.3 billion (£4.2 billion) for Qantas.

In a statement following the reports, the airline said: "The approach is confidential and incomplete and is being investigated by Qantas."

Macquarie subsequently issued a statement confirming that "indicative discussions" had been held with the Australian carrier, which it said were of a "preliminary nature".

"If a firm proposal is made, that proposal will adhere to the existing rules governing the ownership of Qantas, in particular that there will be continuing majority Australian ownership," Macquarie added.

Under current Australian regulations, no individual entity is permitted to hold a stake of over 25 per cent in Qantas, while shares held by international investors must not exceed more than 49 per cent.

Australia's deputy prime minister Mark Vaile stressed that any takeover deal agreed by the company would not result in the airline falling into foreign hands.

"Obviously, with the foreign ownership cap, there will always be a majority Australian ownership of Qantas," he said.

However, Australia's Daily Telegraph newspaper reported the country's opposition treasury spokesman Wayne Swan as saying that the Labour party would closely scrutinise any such bid to ensure the deal "does not take the kangaroo out of Qantas".

Australian unions have also expressed concern that a takeover of Qantas could result in job losses.

News of the takeover approach saw shares of Qantas close up 15 per cent at AUS$5 (£2).

The acquisition bid marks the latest attempt by Macquarie to expand its investment portfolio, with the Australian bank last month acquiring British utility company Thames Water for £8 billion, along with the London boss operations provided by Stagecoach.

The bank has also made recent unsuccessful approaches for the London Stock Exchange and Associated British Ports.


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