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Tue Nov 20, 2001 8:14 am

Virgin Blue to make formal bid for Ansett
The Aussie budget carrier wants more financial information before submitting plan, and is in talks with various parties

CANBERRA - Australian budget airline Virgin Blue said yesterday that it would make a formal bid for collapsed carrier Ansett, but only after it has looked at the company's books.

'We will put in a formal bid when we get access to information but we haven't cited exactly when,' said Virgin Blue's commercial chief, Mr David Huttner. 'We hope to do so soon and we are in discussions with parties such as the Lang Corporation who might make that possible.'


Once Australia's second-largest airline, Ansett was put into voluntary administration in mid-September and later grounded due to unsustainable debt, leaving most of its 16,000 staff jobless.

With some government support, Ansett's administrators - accounting firm Andersen - managed to get some planes back into the air and is now finalising plans to sell the airline.

Two weeks ago, Andersen named a consortium of two Australian businessman, Messrs Lindsay Fox and Solomon Lew, as the preferred bidders. They had offered A$1.8 billion (S$1.76 billion) for Ansett Mark II, a scaled down version of the airline.

However, the deal has not yet been sealed amid claims by Virgin and an Ansett staff consortium that it was being rushed through.

Mr Huttner on Monday told Australian Broadcasting Corp radio that the administrator was using the excuse of timing to push the Fox-Lew bid for the airline. 'We've been kind of shut out of the whole process by the administrator, they've set up a preferred deal with Fox-Lew.'

Transport Minister John Anderson has been holding talks with both Virgin and the Fox-Lew consortium and will meet them again this week, said his spokesman, Mr Paul Chamberlain. 'We just want to see as many people back to work and as many planes back in the air as possible, but the decision on who actually buys Ansett is solely a decision for the administrator.' --AP
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