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Tue, Feb 06, 2007 - Page 10 News List

Qantas bidder agrees to sale conditions


The private equity consortium making an A$11.1 billion (US$8.7 billion) bid for Qantas Airways said yesterday it could not guarantee jobs but could agree to other sale conditions.

Qantas directors have recommended that shareholders accept the offer from Airline Partners Australia (APA), but the sale has met the alarm of unions and opposition politicians who believe it should be subject to greater scrutiny amid concerns it amounts to a foreign takeover of an iconic Australian firm.

Bob Mansfield, who heads the consortium of domestic and foreign companies, said that the bid had been submitted to the Foreign Investment Review Board for clearance to "put some calmness into this situation."

The airline, which remains one of the world's most profitable for its size, is subject to a 49 percent ceiling on foreign ownership and a 25 percent limit on any single foreign shareholding.

Mansfield said that while APA wanted to expand the airline's business, it could not give an ironclad guarantee on Qantas jobs.

"On staffing, what we're putting on that is we can't guarantee jobs because I don't think any employer can," Mansfield said in a radio interview.

"As things change, you've got to adapt to that but our single focus on this whole exercise we're looking at with Qantas is to grow the organisation with 70 more planes and a 40 percent bigger network at the end of the five to six years. If that happens, jobs will grow," he said.

The consortium said it will continue regional services and safety and maintenance levels and will not break up the airline.

"Taking some of the assurances that we've given and turning them into conditions I think we would be able to live with ... that's the process that's ahead of us," he said.

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