Though there has been some loosening of airline ownership rules in recent years, particularly in the European Union and in Australia and New Zealand, foreign ownership limits are still in place in a number of countries, usually set at 25% or 49%.
Is there a way to do an end-run around these restrictions?
Imagine if a foreign company were interested in acquiring a majority stake in an airline, and a majority of shareholders were interested in selling -- but faced with the brick wall of foreign ownership restrictions prohibiting the transaction.
But instead of walking away, the foreign company quietly approached shareholders with an agreement: the shareholders would continue to be the legal owners of their shares, but the foreign company would assume the costs and risks associated with owning those shares if the shareholders agreed to do the foreign company's bidding. The agreement could include a provision allowing the shareholders to keep a percentage of any dividends for themselves, or receive a fee or other benefits for acting as the foreign company's proxy.
Would it work?