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Chinese to own a third of Virgin Australia

Business

Virgin Australia will be about one-third owned by Chinese companies after Air New Zealand agreed to sell the bulk of its shareholding to the Nanshan Group conglomerate.

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Air NZ has agreed to sell a 19.98 per cent stake in Australia’s second-biggest airline to Nanshan for $301.4 million, or 33 cents a share.

The shares were valued at 28 cents before the start of trade today.

“We believe Nanshan Group will be a very strong, positive and complementary shareholder for Virgin Australia,” Air NZ chairman Tony Carter said in a statement.

Virgin said it looked forward to meeting with Nanshan, which has interests across a diverse range of industries and launched Qingdao Airlines in April 2014, over the coming weeks to discuss the proposed transaction.

Nanshan will nominate a representative for the board, which Virgin will consider.

Air NZ’s sell-down comes less than two weeks after Virgin Australia announced a strategic commercial alliance with HNA Group, which will include China’s biggest private airline operator buying a 13 per cent stake for $159 million.

HNA plans to increase its shareholding in Virgin to 19.99 per cent over time.

Air NZ said Nanshan intended to support the outcome of the Virgin’s capital structure review, which was announced in March.

It said options regarding its remaining Virgin shareholding would be considered in due course.

Air NZ’s current 25.9 per cent stake in Virgin is expected to be diluted to about 22.5 per cent because of the Virgin-HNA tie-up, which will include the issue of new Virgin shares.

Etihad Airways, Singapore Airlines and Richard Branson’s Virgin Group will all see their Virgin shareholdings slip because of the issuance of new shares in the HNA deal.

Both share deals need Chinese regulatory approval.

-AAP

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