Two private groups considering bid for Virgin Australia – report

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Two private groups are considering making approaches for Australia’s second-biggest airline Virgin Australia Holdings Ltd (VAH.AX), The Australian Financial Review reported citing sources.

FILE PHOTO: A Virgin Australia Airlines plane takes off from Kingsford Smith International Airport in Sydney, Australia, March 18, 2020. REUTERS/Loren Elliott/

A private equity investor has partnered with a “a strategic airline investor” to make an offer for the cash-strapped airline and the second potential buyer could be an investment bank which has allied with an Australian infrastructure investor, the newspaper reported.

Virgin Australia on Thursday suspended trading in its shares to continue talks on financial aid and restructuring alternatives to help it weather the coronavirus crisis.

The airline has so far been unsuccessful in its request to the Australian government for A$1.4 billion ($889.7 million) in loans that it could convert to equity under certain circumstances.

Virgin is also in talks with creditors about debt restructuring options such as a debt-for-equity swap and has hired UBS, Morgan Stanley, Houlihan Lokey and Deloitte as advisers, a person with knowledge of the matter told Reuters on Thursday.

Entering voluntary administration is a last resort but the airline believes it needs a decision on government aid by next week, the person, who was not authorised to speak publicly, said.

Australia on Thursday said it would spend up to A$165 million ($104.9 million) to help Qantas (QAN.AX) and Virgin Australia keep planes flying between capital cities of the states and a handful of regional centres over the next eight weeks.

Etihad Airways, Singapore Airlines (SIAL.SI), Nanshan Group and HNA Group, who together own 80% of the airlines, have refused to tip in fresh funds for the airline, the report said.

“We want to have two airlines in Australia that are commercially viable,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison told Radio 3AW on Friday.

“I understand and know that there are all sorts of commercial discussions going on right now. And the worst thing I could do as a prime minister or as a government is get in the way of that.”

BGH Capital is among the most speculated private equity firms to bid for the airline, the report said. BGH had declined to comment to the newspaper.

Virgin Australia did not immediately respond to a request for comments on the story.

Reporting by Renju Jose in Sydney; Editing by Stephen Coates

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