Press: Qantas sale won’t unlock US for SIA

Australia’s Transport Minister said on Monday the A$11 billion ($8.6 billion) sale of Qantas Airways Ltd. would not trigger a rethink on giving Singapore Airlines access to lucrative cross-Pacific routes. “It would be a number of years before we revisit that,” Mark Vaile told the Australian newspaper.

Senior Australian cabinet ministers decided last March to lockout Singapore Airlines from Australia-U.S. routes in a win for Qantas and new discount entrant Virgin Blue Holdings Ltd. .

Vaile said he was committed to seeing Virgin Blue launch flights from mid-next year without added competition.

The minister also warned the Qantas buyout consortium, led by Macquarie Bank Ltd. and private equity firm Texas Pacific Group, that jobs and maintenance work would have to remain in Australia as a condition of government sale approval.

“Obviously we can’t be too interventionist, but this business ... is in a very unique position in the Australia economy and therefore we need to move forward with great care,” Vaile said.

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An offer of A$5.60 a share is due to go to Qantas shareholders late this month or in early February, though Australia’s Treasurer, Peter Costello, has the right to put conditions on a takeover on national interest grounds.

The Qantas takeover is also being reviewed by Australia’s competition regulator.
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