The flight from Sydney to Canberra took less than an hour but Qantas CEO Alan Joyce would have flown around the world for the outcome – Australian Treasurer Joe Hockey indicating that the foreign ownership shackles may come off the national flag carrier.
Mr Hockey today warned that keeping Qantas in ”regulatory handcuffs” will cost taxpayers.
His sentiments came less than a week after Mr Joyce lobbied the Federal Government over the issue, brought to a head by Virgin Australia’s planned $350 million capital raising from its three major shareholders – Etihad, Singapore Airlines and Air New Zealand, each of them foreign owned.
The Qantas Sale Act caps foreign investment at 49 per cent, total ownership by foreign airlines at 35 per cent, and a single foreign investor to 25 per cent.
But as the Sydney Morning Herald reports, “Depending on the take up of new shares, Virgin’s latest capital raising could allow its three main shareholders to increase their combined stake to as much as 68%. Richard Branson’s Virgin Group also has a 10%”
Qantas has gone on the front foot over the issue, which Mr Joyce says limits the airline’s access to foreign capital, severely limiting its ability to compete with Virgin, which it claims is prepared to operate at a loss to gain market share.