Chinese move on Virgin Australia

first_imgVirgin Australia is 2018 Top Twenty Safest Airline Virgin Australia is set to become almost 40 per cent Chinese owned after HNA Aviation Group moved quickly to increase its shareholding to 19.2 per cent.Virgin revealed the increase in HNA’s stake Tuesday as part of an announcement that shareholders had taken up 89.5 per cent of their entitlements in its $852m capital raising. Another Chinese conglomerate, Nanshan Group, separately bought a 19.98 per cent stake in June.The non-renounceable pro-rata entitlement offer, which opened last month, allowed shareholders to buy an additional Virgin share at 21 cents per share for every share held.The capital raising is part of a strategy to repair the airline’s balance sheet alongside a restructure aimed at achieving $300m in annualised savings.It was fully underwritten so about 424 million new shares will be issued to sub-underwriters, including Singapore Airlines, HNA Group and Virgin Group.Rough estimates of shareholdings after the raising put Air New Zealand at around 2.5 per cent, Etihad at between 21 and 21.8 per cent, Singapore at 20 to 21 per cent, Virgin Group at around 10 per cent, Nanshan at between 19 and 19.9 per cent and HNA at 19.2 per cent.The company said the capital raising and a recently completed $159m placement to HNA had raised $1,011 million and this was expected to rise to $1.1 billion once the top-up to HNA Innovation was completed.All major shareholders took up their total entitlements under the offer, suggesting it had not fared as well with smaller investors. In addition to the new Chinese owners, the major shareholders are Singapore Airlines, Etihad Airways, Virgin Group and Air New Zealand.“We are very pleased that shareholders have shown their support for the Group through their participation in the offer,’’ Virgin chief executive John Borghetti said in a statement. “Our renewed capital structure will strengthen our balance sheet, provide additional liquidity and support improvement in earnings.’’Borghetti recently nominated China as a major growth driver for the airline and expressed confidence the airline’s links with its new investors left it well placed to capitalise on the growing market.Nanshan, which bought its stake from Air New Zealand when the Kiwi carrier sold down its shareholding in the wake of an unsuccessful attempt to oust Borghetti, has been looking for tourism opportunities in Australia. The private conglomerate owns a small Chinese carrier, Quingdao Airlines, a private jet business as well as interests in areas such as aluminium, property and agriculture.HNA is China’s biggest private aircraft operator and bought a 13 per cent stake in Virgin in May and i announced it intention to increase the holding to 19.9 per cent. It owns Hainan, China’s fourth biggest airline, as well as several budget carriers and one of the world’s largest leasing companies.The announcement comes as Virgin this wee issues its full-year results. However, it has already announced a net loss of $224.7 million for the past financial year after taking a big charge for cost-cutting and fleet restructuring.The result, which compares to a 2014-15 statutory loss of $93.8 million, translated to an underlying profit before tax of $41 million, which was in the middle of the airline’s $30m to $60m guidance.last_img

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