Air New Zealand reviews stake in Virgin Australia
Air New Zealand is considering selling its shareholding in alliance partner Virgin Australia.
The announcement came after Virgin Australia went into a trading halt on the Australian Stock Exchange.
Air NZ said it would use Credit Suisse and First NZ Capital to advise it on its options, including a part or full sale of its 26 per cent stake.
The announcement comes just a week after Virgin secured a A$425 million (NZ$473m) loan from its four major shareholders: Air NZ, Singapore Airlines, Etihad Airways and Virgin Group.
Air NZ’s chief executive Christopher Luxon resigned from the Virgin Australia board.
Air NZ’s chairman Tony Carter said he has advised his counterpart at Virgin Australia, that the national carrier did not want a large minority shareholding in Virgin Australia as it focused on its own growth opportunities.
Luxon said Air NZ supported the significant transformation that Virgin Australia has undergone over the past five years, and it looked forward to continuing its partnership on the Tasman.
For the year to June 30, 2015 Virgin made a A$93.8m loss.
In the same period Air NZ made a record profit after tax of $327m but suffered a $29m loss on its $422 investment in Virgin.
Hamilton Hindin Greene director Grant Williamson said the announcement was a little surprising considering Air NZ had not held the stake in Virgin for long – about five years.
“They obviously don’t see possible strategic benefits by holding it,” Williamson said.
It was good that Air NZ was reviewing whether an investment in Virgin was the right way to use its funds.
Virgin Australia has a market capitalisation of A$1.34 billion, valuing Air New Zealand’s stake at about A$347m.
Williamson said while it sounded like a significant amount of money it was not huge in the scheme of things for Air NZ.
Air NZ was likely to pocket a reasonable profit if it sold its Virgin shares.
Air NZ shares were trading at $2.89 in late afternoon up 1.4 per cent.