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Final offers are in: Virgin 2 to be smaller, leaner and well-funded say administrators

Business

Virgin Mk 2 will be a smaller, single-branded domestic and short-haul international airline after the two shortlisted bidders filed the binding offers today and made their intentions clear.

 

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The administrators John Greig, Sal Algeri, Richard Hughes and Vaughan Strawbridge received final offers from Bain Capital and Cyrus Capital Partners, but have made no mention of the potential third bid from bondholders.

Strawbridge said Bain and Cyrus had done an enormous amount of work, were well-funded, were enthusiastic supporters and saw real value in this business going forward.

It seems almost certain that Virgin’s headquarters will remain Brisbane with sources close to the deal saying both companies are keen to stay in Queensland.

The only potential issue would be if Deloitte rejects both offers from Bain and Cyrus or the deal is scuttled by bondholders.

“On the basis of their public statements, both bidders are committed to seeing a strong, competitive and sustainable Virgin Australia operating into the future, employing many thousands of Australians, and supporting the tourism industry and state and national economies,” he said.

“Both have previously flagged some of their thinking around a future-state carrier publicly, including operating a smaller, single-branded domestic and short-haul international airline that also has growth potential. Ultimately the size of the airline will be dependent on the timing and level of demand by customers as travel restrictions are eased.

“These will now be carefully assessed by the Administrators and their advisors, with a view to selecting a preferred bidder by Tuesday, June 30.

“Both bidders have also already received FIRB approval, and we would like to acknowledge the assistance of the Federal Government on this front.”

But there were still bondholders, made up of about 6000 retail investors plus a list of corporates, who were agitating to join the fight.

The 6000 bondholders were tipped to file an offer for the airline this morning in a debt for equity swap but their fate remains unclear and administrators Deloitte made no comment about it in their statements today.

The bondholders are unsecured creditors and many are understood to be Queensland-based retail investors. If their offer fails, their investment in Virgin faces the prospect of being reduced to about 10 cents in the dollar in the rebirth of the airline.

One of the founders of Virgin Blue Rob Sherrard has taken the lead of the bondholder offer with Corrs Chambers Westgarth support and advisors Faraday.

Brisbane-based brokers Morgans are also in the bondholder mix after it played a major role in the $325 million bond issue last year.

The Queensland Government’s investment arm, QIC, is understood to be talking to both about the future of Virgin’s headquarters in Brisbane and the State Government’s $200 million offer to keep it here.

QIC’s Damien Frawley told a parliamentary hearing today he couldn’t say much on Virgin bids except that they had been talking with administrators and all bidders, including the final two.

“We have been pleased with the engagement so far and will continue to actively pursue the state’s objectives.”

Under Treasurer Rachel Hunter would not detail Queensland’s offer, saying “the terms and conditions in relation to our involvement with the bidders remain commercial-in-confidence”.

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