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Austrian Airlines likely sold Alliance Airlines stake to Qantas

Austrian Airlines sold its remaining 8.31% stake in Australian carrier Alliance Airlines on the same day that Qantas announced it had taken a 19.9% stake in the Brisbane-based charter specialist.

Disclosures to the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) show that Austrian sold 10 million shares on 1 February, but did not disclose the buyer nor the price achieved in the transaction. That is over half the 19.2 million shares in Alliance that changed hands on that day, ASX charts show.

The Australian Financial Review reports that Macquarie was involved in purchasing the stock for Qantas, but did not name Austrian as a seller of Alliance’s shares.

Austrian took a 12% stake in Alliance in 2015 as part of a cash and shares deal under which the Australian carrier acquired the Vienna-based airline’s fleet of 21 Fokker 100 and 70 jets, plus additional spares.

As part of that deal, the Lufthansa Group carrier agreed to a lock-up period on its shares that expired in December 2018. However in October 2016 it was granted a release to sell 4.5 million shares.

Austrian is likely to have made a tidy profit on the sale of the remaining 10 million shares, which were issued at a price of A$0.52 per share, but look to have been sold for around A$2.50 per share.

Qantas has indicated that it intends to seek regulatory clearance to build up its stake in Alliance and take majority control. It has however made no push for a board seat, while Alliances board adds that it has not received any approach from the Oneworld carrier.

As well as its own resource charter services, Alliance operates aircraft for Qantas and Virgin Australia, and it also has an alliance with Virgin’s charter unit to jointly pursue new contract opportunities.

Virgin has expressed concern about Qantas’s statements about Alliance, but has not signalled if it plans to buy a stake in the charter specialist.

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