AIR NEW ZEALAND (ANZ) stresses that it plans to continue its partnership with Japan Airlines (JAL), despite the Japanese carrier's decision to sell its 5% holding in the group.

Announcing the share disposal, ANZ managing director Jim McCrea heaped praise on JAL's role as a strategic partner and its "support and encouragement" in providing access to Japan's outbound tourist market. He adds that both sides are still committed to "pursuing further benefits" from the relationship.

Cash-strapped JAL chose to off-load its stake as part of a wider rationalisation of its assets. The shares will fetch around $62 million, almost double the amount that it paid for them six years ago.

"It was a good strategic investment and now we're taking our money, because there's no need for us to keep it there. We'll probably spend it on things like fleet acquisition," says JAL.

The JAL holding will be taken up by Brierly Investments, which is already ANZ's largest shareholder. The New Zealand investment house will now hold around 40% of the carrier.

JAL took out its holding in ANZ in 1988 as part of a consortium headed by Qantas and including American Airlines. The aim was to prevent British Airways from buying up shares in the ANZ privatisation.

American sold its ANZ shares in 1992, but Qantas managing director James Strong says that the Australian carrier has no plans to dispose of its ANZ interest.

Qantas had offered a guarantee to its consortium partners, that it would underwrite any shortfall in the dividends, yielded by their stakes in JAL. This was recently a cause of friction between Qantas and Brierly, but has been eased by the JAL sale.

Source: Flight International