PROSPECTIVE BIDDERS FOR ANSETT AUSTRALIA DIMINISHING
Asia Pulse; Oct 2, 2001
MELBOURNE, Oct 2 Asia Pulse - The pool of prospective bidders for failed airline Ansett Australia appear to be diminishing, leaving the Ansett staff eager to buy the carrier with a better lookout.
Ansett staff - an employee buyout bid headed by former Ansett chief executive Graeme McMahon - met administrators Andersen today to discuss plans for resurrecting the airline.
Five parties have expressed an interest in purchasing all or parts of the airline, a spokesman for Andersen said.
For commercial reasons he would not specify who the parties were, although he confirmed trucking magnate Lindsay Fox had spent time with the administrators yesterday.
Mr Fox's company, Linfox, already has strong airport management credentials.
Linfox owns Avalon Airport, near Geelong, and in August it was half of a group which bought Essendon Airport in Melbourne.
Victorian Premier Steve Bracks said today that one of the interested parties, Singapore Airlines, was pulling out of the process.
Mr Bracks said he and state Treasurer John Brumby were willing to travel to Singapore if the airline showed an interest in buying Ansett, but that interest had waned.
"We'd like to go if there's a prospect of Singapore Airlines having an interest in Victoria, but at this stage they (Singapore Airlines) are so annoyed at what the federal government did that they're not interested basically," Mr Bracks told radio 3AW.
A spokesman for Singapore Airlines was not available for comment.
Singapore Airlines was an early potential saviour for Ansett when it was keen to increase its shareholding in Ansett's owner Air New Zealand from 25 per cent to 49 per cent.
Air New Zealand needed the financial injection to renew Ansett's ageing fleet of aircraft.
But the federal government lobbied the New Zealand government to block the Singaporean bid and the delays eventually resulted in the airline losing interest.
After Singapore Airlines walked away from increasing its stake in Air New Zealand, the Kiwi airline duly stood aside from Ansett and the Australian carrier collapsed.
An Andersen spokesman said today there were still five in the running to either buy all or part of Ansett.
"The books are still open and negotiations are continuing," he said.
As the complex task of assessing bidders began, former Ansett regional subsidiary, Kendell Airlines, announced today it would resume flying to Canberra and Tasmania this week.
Kendell will fly from Melbourne to Burnie, Melbourne to Devonport and Melbourne to King Island from tomorrow.
Flights linking Canberra with Melbourne are expected to begin on Thursday, with flights between Sydney and Canberra starting next Monday.
Meanwhile, the Australian Services Union (ASU) today spearheaded the launch of a fund to assist the families of former Ansett workers.
The Ansett Family Hardship Fund was an initiative of the union and the Airport Chaplain Service.
The ASU said workers were not paid for their last week of work.
After four weeks without pay, Ansett's 16,000 staff members were "doing it tough".
The first fundraising activity will be an auction of footballs signed by the Brisbane Lions and Essendon football clubs at last week's AFL grand final parade.
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