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RichardMEL Feb 9, 02 7:56 am

Battle to resurrect Ansett hots up
 
Battle to resurrect Ansett hots up
By RICHARD WEBB
Sunday 10 February 2002

The end game in the battle to resurrect collapsed airline Ansett is now on, with news of an emergency meeting in London on Friday night between key players behind the Lindsay Fox-Solomon Lew Tesna syndicate and Sir Richard Branson, the chief of rival discount airline Virgin Blue.

Ansett administrator Mark Korda of Arthur Andersen last night stressed that he remained confident the deal with Lew-Fox's Tesna group would be finalised in time for them to take control of Ansett before the Ansett creditor deadline at the end of this month.

He discounted media reports over the weekend that the Ansett group was losing more money than the $24 million it told the courts and creditors it would lose in February, and said all was still going to plan in terms of the business sale to Tesna, foreshadowing some positive announcements for Ansett.

"The best chance of saving Ansett is to get the deal done with Tesna," he said. "With a bit of luck, we should be able to make some announcements this week in relation to airports, airbuses, frequent fliers, golden wings and new (managerial) appointments," he said.

Mr Korda said the administrators had told the courts and creditors the business would lose $24 million for the month as it ramped up its operations from 11 aircraft to 14 aircraft, and said Ansett was still trading in line with those expectations.

He confirmed that Ansett would cancel 46 flights this week, but said this was part of the group's move to make some flight consolidations rather than a sign of its imminent collapse. "We have opted to consolidate rather than increase flights." Ansett makes 480 flights a week. Mr Korda said all passenger ticket money was being held in a trust account anyway, so passengers had nothing to fear and could not lose their money.

Meanwhile, Virgin confirmed that Sir Richard met with David Bonderman, chairman of the highly successful European discount airline Ryanair, and with Bill Franke, chairman of Airplanes Group plc. It is believed both Mr Fox and Mr Lew attended the same meeting - both are in Europe at the moment, negotiating terms to lease aircraft for Ansett from France's Airbus group.


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