News: Ansett deal could be done in days, says Fox

 
Old Feb 12, 02, 7:56 pm
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News: Ansett deal could be done in days, says Fox

Ansett deal could be done in days, says Fox

By Darren Goodsir, Transport Writer

The agonising sale of Ansett could be clinched within days, one of its prospective owners said yesterday, as the airline's administrators lost a key court ruling to shield them from litigious creditors.

Businessman Lindsay Fox said moments after returning to Australia from a five-day trip to Europe that he and his partner Solomon Lew, the principals of the Tesna syndicate, "were concentrating very, very heavily on finalising the deal with the administrators".

"We should be in a position to close that deal over the next few days," he said.

Mr Fox urged greater Federal Government participation in resolving protracted talks with the Sydney Airports Corporation over securing Ansett's terminal lease.

But he remained coy on the syndicate's talks in London with Richard Branson, the head of Virgin Blue.

Negotiations about a joint venture with Ansett, or some other commercial partnership - believed to be focusing on sharing terminal space - will continue with Virgin Blue's chief executive, Brett Godfrey, today.

Mr Fox said it "well worth having a chat" to Sir Richard because he was "one of the first people in good discount aviation".

Meanwhile, the administrators, Mark Korda and Mark Mentha, vowed to continue their unsuccessful flights, which are losing more than $1million a day, after the Federal Court rejected their bid for judicial protection.

Justice Alan Goldberg said it was not the court's role to sanction a commercial proposition.

"As a matter of principle, it is not appropriate for a court to give a direction approving of a business decision made by administrators where no issue of power, or the propriety or reasonableness of the decision, or issue requiring the court to make a judgement on a legal issue arises for consideration," Justice Goldberg said.

He said there was understandable concern about the deal collapsing, but "no-one has suggested that the administrators should not persevere with trying to complete the sale".

After the ruling, Mr Korda said that keeping the airline flying, while trying to resolve the impediments to the sale, represented the "only prospect of a return to all creditors".

"As soon as key third parties provide their consents to the Tesna sale, it will be finalised quickly," he said.

A spokesman for the Sydney Airports Corporation said that, despite progress and a spirit of co-operation, no deal had been brokered.

"Given the complex nature of the issues involved and the late start to the negotiations, considerable progress has been achieved in a very short time frame," the spokesman said.

"We are working towards a mutually acceptable and commercially responsible outcome."

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