Air NZ denies asset strip claims
March 19 2002
Air New Zealand today vowed to mount a vigorous defence against allegations it had stripped assets from Ansett in the dying days of the company last September.
In a statement issued this morning, Air NZ managing director Ralph Norris hit back at claims contained in the latest report to creditors by Ansett administrators Andersen.
In the report, issued yesterday, administrators Mark Korda and Mark Mentha said they were considering legal action against the former Ansett parent company for alleged asset stripping and alleged inappropriate charging of fuel and other operating costs.
Mr Norris said he was disappointed at the revival of the asset stripping claims, which first arose at the time of the collapse.
"We are disappointed to see the Ansett administrators reviving allegations of asset stripping and inappropriate charging after reaching agreement with us to settle all claims between Ansett and Air New Zealand," Mr Norris said.
"The allegations are nothing more than groundless rumours which were circulated when anger over the loss of Ansett was at its peak.
"We refuted them at the time and continue to do so."
Mr Morris said Air New Zealand knew of no grounds for action against the company and would be asking administrators to provide their reasons for advising creditors that the claims justified further investigation.
The administrators report said legal action was also being considered against the Ansett Group of Companies over the payment of bonuses to some executives in August 2001, a month before the airline's collapse.
The administrators were also investigating claims that might be made against the Lindsay Fox/Solomon Lew Tesna syndicate over the aborted sale of Ansett Mark II.
However, they acknowledged that such legal action appeared unlikely to succeed.
In other developments, the report to creditors has warned that Ansett employees might not receive their full entitlements, now the airline will not be sold as a going concern.
The report suggested that contingencies such as taxes and other costs could see the return on employee entitlements reduced from 100 to 92 per cent.
Mr Korda told ABC radio this morning he believed employees should get the full sum.
"However, there are a number of contingencies out there that we can't control, certain taxes and realisation costs," he said.
"If these contingencies arise or we have those realisation issued, it may be less than 100 cents in the dollar."
Meanwhile, the likelihood of Ansett's unsecured creditors, which include frequent flyer point holders, receiving anything appears to have vanished.
If the Tesna deal had gone ahead administrators had hoped to return up to five cents in the dollar to unsecured creditors.
"We also indicated that if the sale did not complete, it was likely that there would be a shortfall in meeting priority payments and there may be no return to the unsecured creditors," the report said.
"This is now the expected outcome."