Consortium orders aircraft for Ansett
By Virginia Marsh in Sydney and Kevin Done, Aerospace
Published: February 10 2002 15:34 | Last Updated: February 10 2002 18:19
The consortium behind the takeover of Ansett, the failed Australian carrier, on Sunday attempted to dampen fears that its bid was in danger of collapsing by signing a A$3bn (US$1.5bn) deal to buy 30 new Airbus aircraft.
"We are committed to the completion of the sale agreement with the Ansett administrator and are pursuing resolution of the remaining issues involving third parties," the Tesna consortium said.
However, it also emerged that Tesna, a bidding group led by Solomon Lew and Lindsay Fox, had held talks over the weekend with Sir Richard Branson, owner of Virgin Blue, the Australian discount carrier that sparked the price war partly responsible for Ansett's demise.
The two Melbourne millionaires, in Europe to clinch the Airbus deal, arranged a meeting at short notice with Sir Richard on Friday.
Virgin confirmed the meeting had taken place but declined to comment on what was discussed.
Virgin Blue expressed strong interest in taking over Ansett last year. and was disappointed when the administrators instead opted for Tesna's proposal.
Still, it the airline has benefited considerably from Ansett's collapse, saying on Sunday its market share had increased to 12 to 13 per cent, from less than 9 per cent, and that it expected a sharp increase in third-quarter earnings.
Airbus said that Tesna had signed a memorandum of understanding to buy 30 of its A320 and A321 aircraft with delivery to begin later this year. It also had an option to buy a further 10 aircraft.
Tesna, which declined to comment on whether it would be able to cancel the Airbus deal should its takeover fail, had initially planned to lease aircraft from United Airlines but decided to bring forward the Airbus deal to enable it to expand its domestic schedule more quickly.