No govt funding for Ansett bid
THE bid by businessmen Lindsay Fox and Solomon Lew to take over Ansett would get no federal government financial assistance, by mutual agreement, Transport Minister John Anderson said.
After a meeting with the pair, Mr Anderson said all outstanding issues had been resolved apart from two regulatory issues which he would not detail.
The Fox-Lew bid for the collapsed airline originally sought substantial government assistance.
Issues resolved included orderly approval of air operator certificates, arrangements for entitlements for workers transferring to Ansett Mark II and cross-ownership of airports, but financial assistance such as depreciation allowances and other tax breaks did not come up.
"To be fair to these gentlemen, they've fully understood and accepted and made the point that any of those things that you did would have to be done for the entire industry, not for one player," Mr Anderson said.
"We've resolved nearly all the outstanding issues, there are two that remain.
"We've determined that all we'll say about those at the moment is that they go to the heart of the competitive environment that Tesna (the Fox-Lew consortium) would operate in, given that they believe very strongly they have to have an environment in which they're given a fair chance to grow and expand.
"That's something we've agreed to take forward and try to reach final resolution on by the middle of next week."
Mr Anderson said the Trade Practices Act was under review but industry players were looking for appropriate competition arrangements in the meantime.
"That's the area we've got to explore," he said.
Mr Lew said the meeting with Mr Anderson nutted out most points.
Asked whether this meant the bid would now proceed, he said: "We've signed a transaction with the administrators, so therefore we have somewhat bought Ansett but it does have conditions."
Those conditions were confidential between Tesna and the administrators.
Mr Lew said he was confident Tesna would take over on January 31.
Mr Anderson said handling of the $195 million federal loan for workers' entitlements was an issue between the Government and Ansett administrators, not between the Government and Fox-Lew.
He was confident the $3.6 billion deal would proceed.
"Yes, I have every confidence and belief that the commercial forces at play here can be brought to fruition," Mr Anderson said.
The status of a rival bid by Virgin Blue and Lang Corporation was in limbo.
Mr Anderson said he would meet Virgin-Lang in coming days.
Mr Lew said Fox-Lew had a signed agreement with the administrators and creditors had ticked off the deal.
Ahead of the meeting Mr Anderson said the Fox-Lew plan should proceed.
"Let's be frank about this, the creditors looking at this would recognise there's one strong bid in the marketplace that gives them a chance of some return," he said.
"They'd be mad to knock it back, I would have thought."