News: Ansett sale closer after lease deal

 
Old Feb 14, 02, 9:20 am
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News: Ansett sale closer after lease deal

Ansett sale closer after lease deal
By LEONIE WOOD
Friday 15 February 2002

Ansett's administrators could clinch the airline's sale within days after top-level talks between Sydney Airport Corporation's chairman David Mortimer and the Tesna consortium last night appeared to finally strike a crucial deal over a terminal lease.

A joint statement confirming the breakthrough is expected this morning, pending final documentation.

Mr Mortimer and the corporation's chief executive Tony Stuart spent a few hours in Melbourne last night with Tesna's founders Lindsay Fox and Solomon Lew, their legal advisers and Ansett's administrators, Mark Mentha and Mark Korda of accounting firm Andersen, in a last desperate effort to strike a deal.

The direct intervention of Mr Mortimer, Mr Stuart, Mr Fox and Mr Lew followed weeks of frustrating negotiations as the administrators tried to transfer Ansett's exclusive lease at the Sydney domestic terminal to Tesna.

The corporation in recent weeks had demanded hefty bonds from Tesna - at one stage the demand represented more than two years of rent payments for the terminal - plus bonds to guarantee that the corporation would not be left out of pocket if Tesna collapsed.

Resolution of the lease agreement has averted potentially damaging legal action. The administrators, worried that Ansett's losses were eroding returns to creditors, had warned they would sue any party they believed was unreasonably delaying the Ansett sale.

The administration team is due in the Federal Court this morning for preliminary hearing of a complaint by Canberra International Airport.

That airport wants to strike a deal over the future use of Ansett's terminal in Canberra, but is frustrated by the lack of progress after a series of meetings recently.

Although Tesna has not yet struck deals with other airport owners, only the Sydney airport's lease was essential to the Ansett sale.

As well, Tesna is yet to agree to a package of incentives covering issues such as payroll tax, some documentation remains outstanding on a few IT licences, and Tesna must sign final agreements with its bank syndicate.

Meanwhile, Hazelton Airlines will cease flights from Sydney to Canberra, Albury and Wagga Wagga from Sunday amid what the airline's administrator claimed was capacity dumping by Qantas.

"The decision by Qantas to continually increase capacity on these routes has made Hazleton's participation in these markets unviable," administrator Michael Humphris said.

Qantas has added almost 400 seats a day to the already heavily serviced Canberra route, an increase equal to the total daily capacity by Hazelton and Kendell Airlines, he said.

"These extraordinary and unwarranted increases leave us with no alternative but to withdraw from these routes."

Mr Humphris lodged a complaint against Qantas with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission on Monday.

A Qantas spokesman argued that Mr Humphris' claims did not stack up. He said Qantas had increased services to Canberra, Albury and Wagga Wagga after Ansett's collapse at the urging of state and federal governments, tourism authorities and the business community.

Elsewhere, Qantas said it plans to invest $50 million over the next year in its biggest ever airport lounge development program.

The project includes building a second Qantas Club lounge at its Sydney domestic terminal.

The new Sydney lounge will include incorporate smaller, more private areas and communications systems that allow customers to plug in lap-top computers, re-charge mobile phones or access email from the comfort of their armchairs.

with AAP


[This message has been edited by RichardMEL (edited 02-14-2002).]
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Old Feb 14, 02, 4:34 pm
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Join Date: Nov 2000
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...and Justice Goldberg has just resigned prior to hearing the CBR airport case, after admitting he knew Solomon Lew.

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