Thurs "Sydney Morning Herald" :
Crunch time edges closer for Ansett front-runners
Final talks ... Mr Lew and Mr Fox.
By Darren Goodsir and Linda Doherty
The fate of the bid by Solomon Lew and Lindsay Fox to buy part of Ansett could be known today, after the Deputy Prime Minister, John Anderson, meets the businessmen to spell out the extent of Federal Government concessions.
With time running out, Mr Lew and Mr Fox have said their offer hinges on whether competition laws are strengthened to protect Ansett from its main rival, Qantas.
It is understood Mr Anderson has also written to the administrators rejecting their attempt to relax repayment demands on the Federal Government's $195 million loan to cover workers' entitlements.
A spokesman for Mr Anderson said yesterday that the Government would not change its decision that the $195 million was "not to be used to pay other unsecured creditors".
The Government, however, is prepared to help the businessmen with access to airport landing slots, fast-tracking procedures for the air operators certificate for the new airline, insurance and aircraft depreciation costs.
Mr Anderson said last week that he had ruled out a Fox-Lew request to underwrite passenger numbers. "We think that's frankly pretty difficult to do."
He said the bid had to stand on its merits and not be contingent on government handouts or demands for exclusive rights on certain routes.
Last week, a committee of Ansett's creditors - owed more than $2 billion - voted to support the decision to anoint Mr Lew and Mr Fox as preferred bidders for the failed airline. Mr Fox has said he will decide by Saturday whether to press on with the sale.
The administrators, Mark Mentha and Mark Korda, have argued that the airline's chances of success rest on the conversion of the $195 million Commonwealth loan into a grant.