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Qantas takeover in the wings?
12 June 2012 | 16:00 | Source: Ricardo Goncalves, SBS
It's final offer of $5.60 per share, was backed by the company's board, but shareholders rejected the move.
Today, shares in the airline are worth less than one fifth of APA’s offer price.
But there's talk once again, that vultures could be circling the flying kangaroo.
It's easy to forget that APA's bid, initially launched in 2006, almost went through.
The final bid achieved 46.5 per cent approval, just shy of the 50 per cent acceptance level needed.
Only hours after the offer closed, APA received an additional 4.96 per cent acceptance from a hedge fund.
If it came in a touch earlier, the minimum approval threshold would have been reached, and the bid would have succeeded.
A lot has happened since then. The company's board has changed, there's a new CEO and its low-cost Jetstar brand has emerged as the standout as it expands throughout Asia.
The global financial crisis along with soaring jet fuel prices have forced the company to issue numerous profit warnings.
It has also suffered at the hands of warring unions which culminated in an unprecedented grounding of its entire fleet late last year.
Only a few weeks ago, the company drew up plans to split it up into three, separating its international, domestic and Jetstar businesses, but all under the Qantas Group umbrella.
But that didn’t stop the company from issuing another profit warning last week. It's forecasting a full pre-tax underlying profit of as low as $50million, well below analyst expectations of $300million.
That's prompted concerns that the airline may be set to embark on a capital raising or delay the purchase of new aircraft.
Even worse, investors reacted by swiping $1billion from the company's value, sending its shares to a record low.
At that level, it may spark the interest of private equity players, who prey on troubled assets, buying in with a view to turn the company around and make a tidy profit by selling up a few years later.
It's for that very reason Qantas today, confirmed that it has hired Macquarie Group to advise it in case it receives a hostile takeover bid along with Citigroup to monitor its share register.
An outright takeover of the airline is unlikely because of foreign ownership restrictions, but there's nothing stopping a combined international and local group of private investors, similar to APA, to make a play.
It comes as consolidation in the sector continues.
Only recently, Etihad bought a 4 per cent stake in Virgin Australia, with an aim of boost that share to 10 per cent.
Qantas though, maintains it is unaware of any takeover bids in the wings, but the company’s recent moves to split its divisions along with today’s takeover defence strategy almost smells like it is inviting offers, or at the very least, partnerships.