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ACCC probes Qantas purchase of Alliance stake

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has launched an investigation into Qantas’s recent purchase of a 19.9% stake in Alliance Airlines.

The commission’s public register shows that the public review commenced on 7 February, and will focus on if there has been a breach of competition laws as a result of the acquisition.

Details of the issues that it will consider will be made public soon, but it has opened for submissions up to 4 March. No expected completion date has been posted.

Updated stock exchange disclosures show that Qantas acquired its stake in publicly-listed Alliance in two off-market and one on-market transactions on 1 February, picking up 24.8 million shares at A$2.40 ($1.70) each.

One of the off-market transactions corresponds to the same amount of shares sold by Austrian Airlines on 1 February, representing a bloc of 8.31% of Alliance’s equity.

In a statement issued the same day as it bought the shares, Qantas flagged that it will apply to the ACCC for clearance to lift its stake in Alliance, and is ultimately aims to take control of the Brisbane-based carrier.

Gaining that clearance will likely prove tricky, as Alliance provides wet-lease and codeshare services for Virgin Australia, and has a joint business agreement with the carrier covering their charter business.

Alliance's managing director Scott McMillan tells FlightGlobal that Qantas has not approached it "before, during or after" it bought the stake, and its business is continuing as usual.

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