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Sat, Nov 29, 2008 - Page 10 News List

Outgoing Qantas CEO says a merger would be desirable

AFP , SYDNEY

Australia’s Qantas said yesterday it would be in the airline’s interest to merge with rival carriers sooner rather than later as the “flying kangaroo” was well-placed to see out the global financial storm.

Chief executive Geoff Dixon, who was stepping down yesterday after eight years at the helm of the country’s biggest airline, had previously said that consolidation was inevitable as the industry struggled against falling demand.

He told the company’s annual general meeting in Brisbane that “the next step forward for Qantas will be to participate in consolidation of the aviation industry.”

Dixon had said earlier he believed Qantas needed to merge.

“I think it’s desirable, particularly in our current strong situation, so that we can be a major partner in that,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

“I do believe at some stage in the next few years, Qantas will end up in partnership with another airline, and Qantas is so strong now, it will be a major part of that partnership whereas 10 years ago, it would have been a minority part,” he said.

Qantas, which earlier this week forecast a 64 percent drop in annual profits and announced further capacity cuts to cope with the financial crisis, said despite the challenges of the global meltdown it was in a strong position.

Chairman Leigh Clifford told the meeting that Qantas had recently seen a fall in bookings, particularly for international flights.

“Meanwhile, the aviation industry globally is restructuring and this will also exert competitive pressures on Qantas,” he said. “But few airlines can be better placed than Qantas to manage through this volatile era.”

On Tuesday Qantas said it was prepared for a 64 percent drop in annual profits for the financial year ending June 30.

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