Sale of rest of Qantas set to raise pounds 985m

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The Independent Online
THE AUSTRALIAN government is to float its remaining 75 per cent stake in Qantas Airways early next year, raising more than Adollars 2bn ( pounds 985m). British Airways, which owns 25 per cent of the airline, is prohibited from increasing its stake in the national carrier, which it acquired in December 1992 for Adollars 666m.

Kim Beazley, Australia's Finance Minister, said it was unlikely that another airline would be allowed to buy a stake in Qantas. The float will be targeted at institutions and small private investors in Australia, although about 10 per cent of the shares are likely to be offered to foreigners.

Mr Beazley said the decision to proceed early next year had been influenced by several factors, including the airline's readiness for sale and the improved outlook in the domestic and international aviation market.

The government had originally planned to sell its remaining holding last year but rescheduled the float because of a deterioration in world trading conditions. Mr Beazley said Qantas has been made more attractive by the acquisition of Australian Airlines, a domestic carrier.

He said the government would announce the lead manager for the flotation within the next few weeks. Mr Beazley expects the sale to raise the bulk of the Adollars 2.5bn that the government has forecast for asset sales in the year ending in June 1995.

In a separate development, British Airways has called on the European Commission to ban the French government's proposed Fr20bn ( pounds 2.3bn) state aid package to Air France. BA said the aid would distort competition and hamper the development of Europe's aviation market. It also said Air France could solve its problems through other means, including the sale of stakes in other airlines.

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