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Old March 8th, 2005, 06:59 PM   #121
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Safer cheaper system than radar
8 March 2005
Hobart Mercury

A NEW radar-like surveillance system being progressively established across Australia will improve air safety.

Twenty-eight of the Automatic Defendance Surveillance Broadcast systems were being established over the next 18 months.

The Royal Federation of Aero Clubs of Australia's annual flying training conference in Hobart yesterday was told the new system to cover Tasmania would be installed in November at Mt Barrow east of Launceston.

Each system costs $200,000 to $300,000, depending on site conditions, compared to $6 to $10 million for a radar system.

Airservices Australia (the National Air Traffic Control Corporation) acting CEO Hisham El-Ansary said the system received signals from an aircraft via satellite to provide positional information to an air traffic controller.

The systems would provide surveillance across the whole Australian continent above 30,000 feet, which had not been possible before.

He believed Australia would be the first country to introduce this type of technology on this scale.
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Old March 13th, 2005, 05:53 PM   #122
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Virgin Blue worries hit shares
Scott Rochfort
11 March 2005
The Sydney Morning Herald

Fears of another Virgin Blue profit downgrade were heightened yesterday after the budget airline said it could not "quantify reliably" its profit outlook beyond March 31.

Putting a further dent in the airline's campaign to fend off Patrick Corp's $1.90 a share takeover bid, Virgin Blue's interim chairman David Ryan warned in a statement that "difficult market conditions, including high fuel prices and excess capacity may persist".

That, compounded with signs the Australian economy - and passenger demand - could be headed for a sharp downturn, sent the airline's shares down to $1.92 - their lowest since Patrick launched its late January takeover bid - before closing 4c lower at $1.94.

In the wake of two profit downgrades in recent months, the supplementary target statement by the airline yesterday did little to appease concerns about Virgin Blue's future.

On Wednesday, Macquarie Equities analyst Paul Huxford issued a note warning that his profit forecasts for Virgin Blue were under review.

On signs that the domestic market was already struggling to absorb Virgin, Qantas and Jetstar's recent rapid fleet expansions, Mr Huxford said his forecast of Virgin posting a $165 million net profit in the 12 months "could easily" be cut to $140 million.

The release of an independent expert's report last Monday valuing Virgin Blue at $2.43 to $2.90 has failed to fire up the carrier's share price.

The only investor appearing upbeat about the airline's future yesterday was Sir Richard Branson, who already lifted his stake in late January in order to frustrate Patrick's bid.

Sir Richard's Virgin Group confirmed last night that it had lifted its stake to 25.6 per cent after snapping up an additional 5 million shares at $1.95 each.

A Virgin Group spokesman said: "We see the long-term value of the company as much higher."

But Virgin's case was not helped by the resignation on Wednesday night of Virgin Blue co-founder and deputy chief executive Rob Sherrard.

It had been rumoured publicity-shy Mr Sherrard had been looking to quit since the airline appointed the former general manager of Air New Zealand's Pacific operations, Andrew David, as chief operating officer last October.

"It's certainly not a shock resignation," the airline's manager for public affairs, Heather Jeffery, said.

"There's nothing Machiavellian about the timing," she said.

Mr Sherrard was not available to comment on whether he planned to sell his stake in the airline, which according to the 2004 annual report was 7 million shares, or 0.7 per cent.

Mr Sherrard will also leave behind his fat salary package, which last fiscal year totalled $6.2 million - including $5.8 million worth of options.

The timing of Mr Sherrard's departure has not been interpreted as a major vote of confidence in the airline's future and its campaign to resist Patrick head Chris Corrigan's bid to lift his 46 per cent shareholding above 50 per cent so he can gain outright management control.

Legend has it Mr Sherrard and Virgin Blue's chief executive Brett Godfrey drunkenly conceived their plans to establish the airline on the back of a beer coaster in a London pub during the 1993 Ashes Test series. Mr Godfrey started his aviation career as an accountant for National Jet, an air charter business Mr Sherrard founded in 1984.
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Old March 14th, 2005, 07:00 PM   #123
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DHL Opens US$15 MLN Cargo Facility at Sydney Airport

SYDNEY, March 14 Asia Pulse - Logistics company DHL today opened a $A20 million ($US15.85 million) export facility at Sydney Airport, as it anticipates further free trade agreements between Australia and its trading partners.

The air express cargo facility, dubbed Oceania Hub, is the largest of its kind in the Asia Pacific region, with the capacity to move over 90,000 kilograms of freight each day.

DHL said it was hoping to benefit from increased international trade following Australia's free trade agreement with the US, as well an expected deal with the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN).

"Recognising the potential for further growth, DHL has implemented a business strategy that has focused on capacity building," DHL Express regional director Gary Edstein said.

"Given the scope of recently adopted free trade agreements and ongoing negotiations between ASEAN nations for trade liberalisation, both these facilities are great news for Australian organisations looking to further their business through overseas trade."

Trade Minister Mark Vaile, who opened the new building, said the Australian export industry hinged on private sector infrastructure investment.

"This is crucial to maintain our competitive advantage against other competitors in the international marketplace," he said.

"This is a fantastic instalment to continue to erode away the disadvantage of the tyranny of distance from some of our markets."

DHL is also expecting to inaugurate new hubs in Perth and Darwin over the coming months.
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Old March 16th, 2005, 05:24 AM   #124
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Patrick Corp extends Virgin Blue offer to March 22

SYDNEY, March 15 (Reuters) - Australian transport group Patrick Corp. Ltd. (PRK.AX) said on Tuesday it has extended its proposed A$1.1 billion ($866 million) takeover offer for discount airline Virgin Blue Holdings Ltd. another week.

Patrick said a wholly owned subsidiary, Plzen, "has today extended the offer period in relation to its bid for the shares in Virgin Blue Holding Ltd. to 7 p.m. Sydney time (0800 GMT) on 22 March, 2005".

Patrick made its offer in January, nine days after Virgin Blue warned its annual profit would fall as much as 15 percent due to sluggish demand and a price war with Jetstar, the no-frills offshoot of Qantas Airways Ltd. (QAN.AX).

On Feb. 28, the independent directors of Virgin Blue said shareholders should reject the offer, citing an independent expert's report it commissioned that valued Virgin Blue shares at A$2.43 to A$2.90 - at least 28 percent above the A$1.90 a share Patrick offered for the 54.6 percent of Virgin Blue it does not already own.

Patrick has said analysts subsequently valued Virgin at A$1.51 to A$2.20 a share, averaging A$1.84 per share.

Virgin shares closed down 1.6 percent at A$1.90, before the Patrick announcement.

($1=A$1.27).
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Old March 16th, 2005, 09:04 AM   #125
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Ozjet chief rules out price war
Kevin Andrusiak
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16 March 2005
The Australian

AUSTRALIAN-born airline entrepreneur Paul Stoddart flew into Sydney yesterday on his new Ozjet service, promising not to start a price war with Qantas and Virgin Blue in the corporate traveller market.

Mr Stoddart, also known for his ownership of Formula One team Minardi, plans to introduce Ozjet in August, capturing a niche market of business travellers intent on extra legroom and up-market service.

He has spent $30 million to get the airline to this stage.

Ticket details released yesterday showed a Sydney-Melbourne return flight would cost $598 in a specially fitted but ageing Boeing 737-200. Mr Stoddart said that at 50 per cent full, an Ozjet flight would still be profitable.

"We are offering something that I don't think is a threat to our competitors," Mr Stoddart said. "We don't have ambitions to take on the big boys. We are just someone looking to take a modest market share. No one wins in a price war."

The proposed Ozjet price compares with full-fare prices on Virgin Blue and Qantas of between $460 and $660 for a return Sydney-Melbourne flight. Business class seats on Qantas can cost more than $1000 return.

Ozjet still needs approval in a number of areas from the Civil Aviation and Safety Authority, including ticketing, before a planned August start on routes between its base in Adelaide and Melbourne and Sydney.

Ozjet will aim for a 10 per cent market share in the corporate traveller sector by March next year, when it introduces routes to Perth, Brisbane and Hobart. But a price war is exactly what Ozjet could find itself in come August.

Earlier this month Virgin Blue, famed for its discount fares, launched a pseudo-business class service aimed at the corporate traveller, offering fully refundable tickets and seats at the front of the plane where there is extra legroom.

Qantas will also be keen to shore up its stake. Executive general manager John Borghetti said his company would work very hard to protect its interests. "We are busy running our own company but we are very competitive (in the business flyer market)," Mr Borghetti said.
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Old March 16th, 2005, 09:34 AM   #126
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Qantas Airways Adds Fourth Sydney-London Flight via Hong Kong

March 16 (Bloomberg) -- Qantas Airways Ltd., Australia's biggest airline, added a fourth weekly service flight from Sydney to London with a stopover in Hong Kong.

The extra flight will begin Nov. 13 and takes the number of Qantas flights between Australia and the U.K. to 28 a week, Executive General Manager John Borghetti said in a statement faxed to Bloomberg News.

Sydney-based Qantas has approval to fly a further three flights to the U.K. through Hong Kong from April 2006, which would allow for daily services on the route, the company said.

Qantas shares rose 1 cent to A$3.59 at 2:22 p.m. in Sydney.
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Old March 16th, 2005, 09:37 AM   #127
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Qantas boosts capacity to UK

(The Australian)
March 16, 2005
QANTAS today said it would increase capacity on the so-called kangaroo route between Australian and the United Kingdom by adding a fourth weekly service.

The extra flight from Sydney to London via Hong Kong will begin November 13.

It will bring the total number of Qantas services between Australia and the UK each week to 28.

Qantas Executive General Manager John Borghetti said it was the second time since in four months that capacity had been added to the Sydney/London route.

"A key part of the Qantas group strategy is to increase capacity to key markets, including the UK, and we have been very pleased with the performance of these new services," he said.

Qantas had added nearly 2,300 seats each week between Australia and the UK and Europe since last November.

"This new service will add another 380 seats and further establish Hong Kong as a great stopover option for Australian travellers alongside Singapore and Bangkok," Mr Borghetti said.

Qantas also has approval to operate a further three services to the UK via Hong Kong from April 2006, enabling the airline to offer daily flights on the route.

The new QF29 service will depart Sydney on Sundays and be operated by three-class Boeing 747-400 aircraft which feature the award winning Skybed sleeper seat.

The three existing QF29 services operate on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
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Old March 16th, 2005, 06:22 PM   #128
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Having a laugh? It'll cost you
Jokes about a 'bomb in the luggage' are now a criminal offence at airports

Greg Ansley Australia correspondent
15 March 2005
New Zealand Herald

CANBERRA - Security officials at Australia's airports are now required by law to have no sense of humour.

Under tough new aviation security legislation the check-in warnings, saying airline staff take jokes about bombs seriously, will be replaced by criminal charges that could see fines of up to A$5500 ($5884) for even the most offhand one-liner.

Quips such as "it's only a machine gun" when asked if you are carrying any dangerous goods will not be tolerated.

The new laws do not permit officials to distinguish between humour and real threats.

"These sorts of jokes distress passengers and staff," Transport Minister John Anderson said.

"They are expensive to deal with and cause delays, because we have to take them seriously and carry out searches just in case they are not in fact jokes.

"If you are stupid enough to make joke threats about aviation security, you won't just miss your flight - you could end up with a A$5500 fine and a criminal record."

The dour approach to misplaced levity is part of a new package of laws to tighten even further the security that has steadily increased at Australian airports since the September 11 terror attacks.

Measures include hardened cockpit doors on airliners, armed air marshals on many flights and special funding to boost security for 144 airports and more than 100 air service operators.

All airlines are now required to train flight and cabin crews in self- defence and the use of "non-lethal protective devices".

Close screening of passengers and luggage now extends into the small services for rural and regional Australia. Airportswithout full screening equipment must train staff to use hand-held screening wands. All staff at airports handling regular passenger flights must undergo security screening.
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Old March 17th, 2005, 06:52 AM   #129
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Qantas tells cabin crew to sit down as talks hit turbulence
Scott Rochfort
16 March 2005
The Sydney Morning Herald

Relations between Qantas and its cabin crews have deteriorated sharply after the carrier's Australian Airlines subsidiary sidelined the Flight Attendants Association of Australia over enterprise agreement negotiations.

With Australian Airlines having recently trained a team of non-unionised strike-breaking crews, it now faces an increased threat of industrial action from its 300 Cairns-based flight attendants after cutting off discussions with the union.

Qantas's executive general manager of people, Kevin Brown, said yesterday the airline was now evaluating several alternatives to negotiating with the FAAA.

He declined to say whether this meant putting Australian Airlines' flight attendants on non-union workplace agreements.

"We're still hopeful we can reach an agreement with our employees," he said. "We have withdrawn our offer. We told them [the union] that this was going to be the case on Friday."

The offer included permitting Australian Airlines access to lower-paid foreign flight attendants and the removal of restrictions that bar the airline's crews from working in business class and on aircraft other than 767s.

Following comments by the Qantas chief executive, Geoff Dixon, last month over the FAAA's poor skills in representing its members, Mr Brown said: "The last month has only reinforced our views about that group."

Mr Brown said the sidelining of the union was mainly a result of the FAAA's poor communication skills, noting that after last Friday's deadline the airline "had heard zip" from the union until yesterday afternoon when a fax was received.

When asked about the strikebreakers Australian Airlines trained in Melbourne and Sydney last month, Mr Brown said the airline had "contingencies in place" so its 50-odd weekly flights were not disrupted.

The head of the FAAA's international division, Michael Mijatov, said the Australian Airlines offer was a "dud deal", noting that the airline's cabin crew got 40 per cent less pay than their Qantas counterparts. He said the talks broke down due to Australian Airlines giving the union an ultimatum - without negotiating.

"We're not threatening any industrial action yet. We just want to talk to them," Mr Mijatov said

"We have to wait and see their next move. We're not going to sign off on this deal and our membership have told us not to sign off on it."

The union says it is concerned the rights of Qantas's 4000 long-haul flight attendants could be seriously eroded in the next round of enterprise bargaining talks in 2007 if it gives in to all of Australian Airlines' demands. Mr Mijatov said Australian Airlines' move to excommunicate the union displayed its "utter contempt for their cabin crew".
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Old March 17th, 2005, 11:54 AM   #130
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Business Times - 16 Mar 2005

Qantas joins SIA in fare slashing

By VEN SREENIVASAN

(SINGAPORE) A day after Singapore Airlines announced $98 return fares to several regional destinations, rival Qantas jumped on the bandwagon with its own $98 return fare to Perth.

The Australian carrier is offering the cut-rate tickets until 5 pm tomorrow. The price doesn't include airport taxes, service fees, insurance and fuel surcharges. And the tickets are only valid on flights QF72 (departs Singapore 9.20 am) and QF77 (departs Perth 11.35 am). Passengers must depart Singapore during the March 28 to April 14 period and must spend between three and 30 days in Perth. Bookings can be made through the Qantas website.

On Monday, SIA announced $98 return fares to seven destinations, including Bangkok, Hong Kong, Jakarta and Perth. But passengers have to book online for the promotional fares, which are valid for bookings till this Thursday and are subject to two people travelling together between March 27 and April 14.

Will more network carriers join the party? Cathay Pacific's Singapore country manager Olivia Wong said her airline won't follow suit. 'We already offer buy-one-get-one-free deals at just $350 to Hong Kong and are working on a similarly attractive package to Sri Lanka,' she said. 'But no $98 deals. Still, I think the SIA and Qantas deals are great for consumers. It's always nice to see people do crazy things.'

Industry insiders say the cut-price flights apply during the traditional 'slow' period. 'It's all about yield management and cost recovery,' said an airline source. 'If you're operating daily scheduled flights it's better to fill all seats, even at cut-rate prices, rather than fly half-empty.'

But others aren't so sanguine. 'This smacks of predatory pricing, no matter what they claim,' said Valuair chief executive Sim Kay Wee. 'If not, then it's clearly an indication of a desperate attempt by these premium carriers to offload distressed inventory.

'Whatever the case, at the end of the day they're under-selling themselves, and if I were a shareholder I wouldn't be very happy. This is like a real Rolex trying to sell itself in the bazaar at fake Rolex prices.'

Mr Sim insisted that Valuair won't be drawn into a 'kneejerk' price war. 'We know our product and our customers,' he said.

As for Qantas, all its Singapore-based regional general manager Steve Limbrick would say is: 'It's Qantas policy to remain competitive at all times and we have responded to fares that are currently available in the market place.'
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Old March 17th, 2005, 12:11 PM   #131
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Man, this makes me SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO angry!!! You guys up there in Singapore get the cheap tickets while we down in Perth have to pay normal rip-off fares. It is ALWAYS (and has alway been) cheaper for people to fly to Perth, but for us, we have to pay through the nose!
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Old March 17th, 2005, 12:25 PM   #132
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Quote:
Originally Posted by elfreako
Man, this makes me SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO angry!!! You guys up there in Singapore get the cheap tickets while we down in Perth have to pay normal rip-off fares. It is ALWAYS (and has alway been) cheaper for people to fly to Perth, but for us, we have to pay through the nose!
Hmmm....but those are one-off limited-quantify publicity deals I would say....how about Valuair's tickets out of Perth? They should be cheaper than those inflated prices I hope?
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Old March 17th, 2005, 02:22 PM   #133
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It's funny you should mention that, Huaiwei. If you check out Valuair's website, the fares quoted for passengers originating in Singapore are waaaaaaaaaaaaaay cheaper than the prices charged to those originating in Perth. I tell you, the Australian government is ripping us poor Perthites off!

You guys are so lucky to have so many budget carriers based in Singapore. The world is your oyster for just a few bucks. I even saw somewhere that Jetstar Asia were giving away FREE tickets to Bangkok!
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Old March 17th, 2005, 02:30 PM   #134
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Quote:
Originally Posted by elfreako
It's funny you should mention that, Huaiwei. If you check out Valuair's website, the fares quoted for passengers originating in Singapore are waaaaaaaaaaaaaay cheaper than the prices charged to those originating in Perth. I tell you, the Australian government is ripping us poor Perthites off!

You guys are so lucky to have so many budget carriers based in Singapore. The world is your oyster for just a few bucks. I even saw somewhere that Jetstar Asia were giving away FREE tickets to Bangkok!
Emm...well.....thats the beauty of competition.......
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Old March 17th, 2005, 05:42 PM   #135
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Our bigger airports set to take wing
Kate Castellari
18 March 2005
The Australian

New giant aircraft will mean more travellers, and both Sydney and Melbourne are gearing for the influx, writes Kate Castellari

AUSTRALIAN airports have experienced significant growth in both domestic and international passenger numbers.

In the second half of 2004, Sydney's growth in domestic and international passengers was 8.4 per cent, and Melbourne's grew by 12 per cent.

The trend is set to continue as larger aircraft are introduced and, consequently, more business travellers arrive.

Sydney Airport chairman and chief executive officer Max Moore-Wilton says major structural changes at the airport will go ahead in time for the expected arrival of the first Airbus A380 in mid-2006.

"The aircraft is significantly larger, carrying 500 passengers, rather than 360 on the 747, so we have to widen taxiways and pavements, strengthen the tunnel over General Holmes Drive and modify and introduce three airbridges," Moore-Wilton says.

The new aircraft will be a full double-decker and unloading will require new dual gates.

The introduction of these super craft will also mean new lounges to cater for more than 100 million people who, Moore-Wilton says, will pass through the airport this and next year.

The business travel market is changing rapidly, he says.

"Business travellers currently account for 20 per cent of regular passengers and they are generally highly discriminating," he says.

"They are technologically literate and want wi-fi (wireless internet) in terminals and, while we have it already, we are moving to next-generation technology to give them good processing equipment for work."

Also on the horizon for Sydney Airport are express check-ins, self-service kiosks and baggage checks. New processing techniques, such as biometrics to assist processing with smart-gate facial recognition, are also being trialed.

"Very rapidly over the next two to three years, the regular business traveller will be processed very quickly," Moore-Wilton says.

"We are planning new long-term and short-term parking in the airport and we have upgraded food and beverage facilities so business travellers can choose to work and sleep on the aircraft, and then eat in the terminal.

"It is all about making the terminal more user-friendly while expanding general shopping and duty-free shopping with more choice and in a more conducive atmosphere."

Most international airlines use Sydney as a hub and a terminating airport, according to Moore-Wilton.

While most carriers have premium lounges, the airport is building new ones for Emirates, Qantas and Singapore Airlines.

Melbourne Airport has also embarked on significant upgrades of its tarmacs, gates and lounges to accommodate the larger aircraft and more passengers.

The international terminal there will be expanded by over 5000sqm, as part of a $220 million development program.

Melbourne Airport acting CEO Kirby Clark said extra capacity was needed to accommodate its growing passenger traffic.

"With Melbourne's international passenger traffic growing at twice the Australian average over the past seven years, the terminal expansion project will provide valuable extra capacity in the gate-lounge areas and ensure Melbourne Airport continues to provide world-class service to our passengers as we grow," Clark says.

The project will see Melbourne Airport's existing international terminal expanded 20m to the north, a new third level added to the international terminal and two dual-aerobridges installed to accommodate the new double-decker A380.

Construction will begin this month and be completed by the end of next February.

The 20m by 80m expansion of the arrivals and departures level of the international terminal will add over 3000sqm to the public gate-lounge areas, more than doubling the space currently available for seating. "The larger gate-lounges will provide plenty of space for passengers travelling overseas, both on the new A380 aircraft and on other services," Clark says.

The project also involves the construction of a 2000sqm third level above the terminal extension, earmarked for use as premium "penthouse" airline lounges.

"The new third level will create an opportunity for interested airlines to provide their passengers with access to some of the best lounge space available at any airport in Australia or the world," he says. "These penthouse lounges will offer passengers superb views of Mount Macedon, the runways and the newly developed A380 aircraft gates."
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Old March 17th, 2005, 07:29 PM   #136
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Patrick poised to take reins at Virgin Blue
By VIRGINIA MARSH
17 March 2005
Financial Times

Patrick, the Australian transport group, is poised to win control of Virgin Blue, the discount carrier set up by Sir Richard Branson five years ago, despite a lukewarm response to its hostile bid, which valued the airline at ADollars 1.99bn (Dollars 1.58bn).

The Sydney-based group, run by Chris Corrigan, a prominent Australian business leader, said yesterday it had increased its holding to 49.03 per cent, just short of the minimum 50.1 per cent it is targeting.

But analysts believe it will pass the 50 per cent mark before its offer, extended this week, closes next Tuesday. If not, Patrick has the right to acquire up to 3 per cent in the market under so-called "creep provisions" in the coming six months.

When Patrick launched its surprise ADollars 1.90-a-share cash bid in January, it was already by far the Brisbane-based airline's largest shareholder, with a stake of 45.4 per cent.

Mr Corrigan pounced just days after Virgin, Australia's second largest domestic carrier, issued its second profits warning. The warning pushed its shares to ADollars 1.73, well below their listing price of ADollars 2.25 in December 2003.

Hopes that Sir Richard - who opposes the Patrick offer - might step in and an independent valuation that said the group was worth ADollars 2.43-ADollars 2.90 a share helped the shares recover to ADollars 2.15.

Sir Richard still holds a stake of about 26 per cent. The carrier accounts for one-third of the domestic market.

The bid comes as Paul Stoddart, another prominent local entrepreneur, is planning to launch a new domestic carrier. Mr Stoddart, owner of the Minardi Formula 1 racing team, is investing ADollars 70m in a new business-orientated carrier he says could break even if it fills 49 per cent of its seats. OzJet will initially target the Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide and Canberra markets.
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Old March 19th, 2005, 07:01 AM   #137
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Australian man arrested after text message threat to bomb plane

SYDNEY, March 19 (AFP) - An Australian man was arrested after making a hoax aircraft bomb threat in a text message sent from his own mobile phone, police said Saturday.

Police said the 35-year-old man from Cairns, in northern Queensland state, sent the message to another mobile phone late Friday saying there was a bomb on board an Air New Zealand flight departing Cairns for Auckland.

Police simply tracked the man through his mobile phone number and arrested him shortly after the message was sent.

He was charged with using a carriage service for a hoax threat and making threats and false statements. He will appear in Cairns Magistrates Court on April 4.
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Old March 19th, 2005, 07:23 PM   #138
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Patrick seizes control of Virgin Blue
Tansy Harcourt
19 March 2005
Australian Financial Review

Chris Corrigan's Patrick Corporation has seized control of Virgin Blue, extending its shareholding in the budget airline to 50.26 per cent through its hostile $1.1 billion takeover bid in a move likely to ease the airfare discounting war with Qantas.

The Patrick takeover is expected to trigger a management shake-up at Virgin Blue including the expected departure of co-founder and chief executive Brett Godfrey and coincides with a slowdown in the aggressive growth strategy pursued by the company in recent months.

Mr Corrigan has openly criticised Virgin Blue's strategy of increasing capacity by 60 per cent and selling tickets for as little as $1.

Patrick said late on Friday it now owned more than half the shares in Virgin Blue, after receiving acceptances for 4.86 per cent through its takeover offer on top of the 45.4 per cent it held before the bid.

It is unclear whether Virgin Blue seed investor and "life president" Sir Richard Branson will sell all or part of his 25.5 per cent holding into the bid. Under Virgin Blue's constitution, Sir Richard's Virgin Group is still entitled to two board seats as long as its shareholding remains above 15 per cent.

Sir Richard has previously described Patrick's bid as too low. His investment company was not available for comment on Friday.

Patrick spokesman Paul White said: "We are pleased to have moved beyond 50 per cent. We will be conducting a review and that will proceed in a timely fashion.

"We are very comfortable with Mr Godfrey, as we have made clear from the outset," he said.

Mr Godfrey would not return calls for comment on his tenure and has made few public comments since the takeover bid was launched in January.

Mr Corrigan is holiday in Europe and was unavailable for comment on the bid.

As chief executive, Mr Godfrey was responsible for taking Virgin Blue from a $US10 million start-up in 1999 to an airline that earned $158 million last year, accounting for a third of the Australian domestic market.

Patrick is offering $1.90 a share for Virgin Blue, a price 22 per cent lower than the bottom of the range suggested by independent expert Grant Samuel and 15 per cent below its December 2003 initial public offer price.

The takeover offer for Virgin Blue was due to close this Tuesday, but will now have to be extended two more weeks because Patrick has received acceptances for more 50 per cent.

Patrick's success in grabbing control of Virgin Blue at a price once described by fund managers as "cheeky" and "opportunistic" is a testament to the shaken shareholder sentiment for the airline following its recent profit downgrades and surging oil prices.

Virgin Blue warned in January that its profit for the year ending March 31 would be as much as 15 per cent below last year's $158 million because of the combination of a price war with Qantas offshoot Jetstar, a surge in capacity and fuel costs.

Oil rose above $US57 a barrel this week despite a promise by OPEC of an increase in production.

Global airline stocks slumped on news of the oil price spike.

Fuel accounts for as much as quarter of most airlines' operating costs, and most airline executives fear that more fuel surcharge increases will start to affect demand for air travel.

Key Points
- Patrick now has more than half the shares in Virgin Blue.
- The takeover is expected to trigger a management shake-up at Virgin Blue.
- It is unclear what seed investor Sir Richard Branson will do.
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Old March 19th, 2005, 07:28 PM   #139
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Panic as engine blows up in midair
20 March 2005
Sunday Mail, The

A JETSTAR airliner plunged 1200m over Bass Strait after one of its two engines blew up, sparking a mid-air panic among 102 passengers.

The Boeing 717 was about 50km into a Launceston-Melbourne flight when there was a massive explosion on the right-hand side.

"There was a loud bang and the whole cabin shuddered," a passenger said.

"It was like going through the worst turbulence you could imagine."

In a matter of seconds the plane dropped from 7300m to 6100m, a Jetstar source said.

The pilot shut down the fuel supply to the stricken engine and steadied the craft.

The international distress call "Pan Pan Pan" was radioed to the Melbourne control tower about 11.30pm on Friday, with the pilot declaring a "Level 1" emergency.

The airliner continued into Melbourne on one engine, landed safely and was met by a 60-strong contingent of emergency teams.

Jetstar spokesman Simon Westaway said the damaged engine was being replaced yesterday and the plane would be back in the sky today.
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Old March 22nd, 2005, 09:57 PM   #140
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Soaring Fuel Forces Another Virgin Blue Warning
By Morag MacKinnon
Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES
22 March 2005

SYDNEY (Dow Jones)--Less than a week after Patrick Corp. (PRK.AU) won control, Australian discount carrier Virgin Blue Holdings Ltd. (VBA.AU) warned that soaring jet fuel prices will cut earnings next fiscal year by more than half.

Brisbane-based Virgin Blue said Tuesday that it's considering an additional fuel surcharge on customers, noting aviation fuel has recently hit a record high of almost US$70 per barrel.

It said the price has jumped 28% since Patrick's bid was unveiled Jan. 28 and is about US$25 per barrel above the average price Virgin Blue paid during the current fiscal year, ending March 31.

"Should the price remain at the current level, Virgin Blue will incur additional costs for fuel in the financial year 2005/06, the effect of which (taken in isolation) would be to decrease profit in the order of US$70 million after tax for that year," Virgin Blue said in a statement. Its commentary was issued to shareholders as a revised portion of its target statement to the A$1.90 a share Patrick bid.

According to broker estimates, Virgin Blue is forecast to report net profit of about A$150 million in fiscal 2006, with a US$70 million fuel impact equal to a 60% fall.

Virgin Blue, 25.6% owned by founder Richard Branson, has no hedging in place against rising fuel prices. Rival Qantas Airways Ltd. (QAN.AU), Australia's largest airline, is fully hedged through to June, and is 35% hedged on its fuel requirement for fiscal 2006.

"Virgin Blue management has informed the independent directors that the consequence of the rise in aviation fuel prices will be to decrease performance for the year to March 31, 2006, to a profit which is below that expected for the year to 31 March 2005," the company added.

The caution is the third profit warning from Virgin Blue since its stock market listing in December 2003 at A$2.25.

Two months ago, Patrick launched its hostile A$1.90 a share bid for the 54.6% of Virgin Blue shares it didn't already own after a profit warning pushed shares in the no-frills carrier to a record low of A$1.60.

Virgin Blue's independent directors have rejected the offer as inadequate and advised shareholders to reject the bid, saying that it was timed to take advantage of current share price weakness and to enable Patrick to acquire Virgin Blue without adequately compensating shareholders. Branson's Virgin Group (VGN.YY) has rejected the takeover offer as too low.

Qantas said it doesn't plan to raise the fuel surcharge on passenger tickets but is monitoring the situation "very closely" as jet fuel prices remain near record highs.


Patrick Shares Fall Nearly 4%


A Virgin Group spokeswoman said Branson's company still rejects the Patrick offer and believes in the long-term strength of Virgin Blue's business.

"We've had an extremely successful partnership with them and are looking forward to continuing to work with them," the spokeswoman said of Patrick Corp.

"There are a number of strategies in which we are in line with them," she said, without elaborating. A Patrick spokesman said the company has no comment on the profit warning.

Consultant Grant Samuel & Associates, hired by Virgin Blue to provide an independent valuation, estimated the carrier's shares are worth between A$2.43 and A$2.90.

Still, Patrick didn't need too many shareholders to agree to move its 45.4% stake past the 50% level which it reached Friday, automatically extending its offer by 14 days to April 1.

Virgin Blue shares ended steady at A$1.90 but dipped to A$1.89 during Tuesday's session. Patrick shares fell 3.8% to A$6.15.

"It's a negative, but not unexpected development," said Brent Mitchell, an analyst at Shaw Stockbroking in Melbourne. "The fuel prices in recent times have been substantial and warrant that warning," said Mitchell.

Analysts said the focus has shifted to what Patrick Chief Executive Chris Corrigan plans for the ailing carrier that has grabbed a one third share of Australia's domestic aviation market yet has struggled since Qantas started its own budget carrier Jetstar in May. Higher fuel prices and increased capacity have conspired to intensify pressure and send Virgin shares lower in the past year.

Following its profit warning in January, when the carrier said 2005 earnings will fall as much as 15%, Virgin Blue said Tuesday that it expects this year's results to be within previous guidance provided to the market.

"If you look at the expansion they've undertaken over the last 12 months, in normal circumstances you would have expected profit to go up and so it's taken away all that rise and more on the downside," said Shaw's Mitchell.

Goldman Sachs JBWere analyst Paul Ryan earlier this week downgraded Virgin Blue's earnings by 10%-20% for fiscal 2006 and 2007. In a report issued Tuesday before the statement was issued, he said the carrier's short-term earnings risk is on the downside due to high fuel prices, growth in capacity and the competitive impact of Qantas.

Downgrading his long-term recommendation on Patrick to Hold from Buy, Ryan said the takeover of Virgin Blue raises Patrick's earnings volatility and reduces its balance sheet capacity for logistics acquisitions.
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