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Bailout speculation mounts as Virgin enters trading halt

written by Adam Thorn | April 14, 2020

A Virgin Australia 737-8FE departs at sunset from YMML (Victor Pody)

Virgin Australia entered into a trading halt on Tuesday morning as speculation mounts as to whether the airline will receive a bailout.

Shortly after the announcement, Labor leader Anthony Albanese said the idea that another airline could quickly take over from Virgin was “frankly a fantasy” and told the government to “stop the bits and pieces support and provide support for our airline industry”.

The airline is seeking a $1.4 billion loan to help it survive during the coronavirus crisis, and announced before the Easter weekend it was to suspend all regular commercial flights, bar services between Sydney and Melbourne.

In a statement to the ASX, Virgin Australia said it had requested a halt “as it continues to consider ongoing issues with respect to financial assistance and restructuring alternatives”.

The Sydney Morning Herald later reported the airline had appointed American investment bank Houlihan Lokey to try and restructure its debt load, which it is struggling to service with little money coming in.


Federal Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese leapt to the airline’s defence in his daily press conference.

“Our two-airline system in Australia has served the country well,” Albanese said. “So today I say to the government, stop the bits and pieces support, provide support for our airline industry, if that needs equity injections … then the government should go down that route.

“And it should go down that route sooner rather than later. Because we know the pressure on these airlines isn’t about to become less for a long time.”

He indicated that his preference would be for the government to obtain equity in the airline, rather than merely issuing a loan.

“There’s no reason why a government could not make a financial injection through equity and that to be sold down the track,” he added. “What we know is at the moment … this is an ideal time, if anything this is the bottom of the market.”

The airline has already currently stood down 8,000 employees since the coronavirus crisis took hold.

Just before the Easter weekend, Virgin Australia announced it would suspend all domestic services from 10 April, except one return flight between Sydney and Melbourne.

Previously, the airline reduced domestic capacity by 90 per cent, flying to just 19 destinations, and cancelled all international journeys.

The business said in a statement, “As a result of government restrictions, less people are travelling and we have made changes to our schedules to reflect this.

“We continue to operate a daily service between Melbourne and Sydney, provide cargo transport locally and overseas, and operate charter flights including assisting the government in bringing Australians home.”

Virgin Australia’s lobbying push for aid has included placing a full-page advert The Daily Telegraph warning of the dangers of a Qantas monopoly.

In an apparent swipe at its biggest rival, the text read, “Our biggest competitors need a challenger to keep them honest and innovative. A monopoly won’t even work for them.”

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Comments (19)

  • Bob Cutts


    I feel sorry for Virgin their financial position is a repeat of what 17000 staff went through with Ansett’s demise
    in September 2001. Both Labor and the Liberals didn’t want to invest money into Ansett to save the airline
    There were a lot of small businesses that were relying on Ansett but of course Virgin were trying to enter the
    market but financially like Ansett running very close to the wind
    Both Ansett and Virgin were not managed to the standards that Qantas had with Strong, Dixon and Joyce have
    done making it a very strong international and domestic airline. As both Dixon and Joyce worked for Ansett and
    its a pity they were not given to steer Ansett too strong airline it had been

    • Lauren


      Virgin Australia has been to running at huge yearly losses. over $600 million for one year. Which is unbelievable when you consider their ticket prices were very close to Qantas. Not sure why anyone would want to bail out an airline which was making such a huge stuff up.

  • Rod Pickin


    I agree, an equity injection is the best way to go but what if the needed current shareholder/s won’t sell? In any event, it is in our country’s best interests to ensure that VOZ remains. Is Tigerair a separate entity? it has to be worth something, I guess we will know soon.

    • Geoff


      Rod, the capital injection would be by the issue of new shares to the government.

  • Sam


    Virgin should be allowed to fail. A decade of losses, the Coronavirus has simply accelerated the inevitable. A monopoly of QF/JQ will not hurt tourism. Low fares will still be available on JQ and with around 150 aircraft between its airlines, the Qantas group can serve all routes adequately.

    • Donal MacKenzie


      You must be kidding Sam. Low fares from a monopoly?

  • Lucas


    Let the airline owners bail themselves out Scomo, it’s not in the Taxpayers interest to prop a failing company.
    John Howard did not do this with Ansett and neither should you. The money could be better spent to get an Australian owned airline started and have those profits rolling back into the economy. Not like these foreign investors who have not contributed a cent in tax to Australia in the last decade.

  • Rob


    Why doesn’t ethihad and Singapore airlines help them out , are they not owned by them ,as I recall annsett did not receive any bailout from the government

  • Ken S


    I have question. Why would/should the Australian taxpayer bail out a company that is majority opened by non Australian entities. I understand that Virgin Australia is owned by the following. Etihad Airways 20.94%, Singapore Airlines 20.09% (in turn 56% owned by Singapore Government), Nanshan Group 19.98% Chinese owned, HVA Group 19.82% Chinese owned, and Virgin Group 10.42% which is UK owned. Leaves 8.75% small investor ownership. Has Virgin Australia in current form or prior forms ever turned a profit? Let the majority owners bail them out.

    • Chris


      Why shouldn’t the Australian government bail it out as an ‘essential’ domestic asset?

      Other than Singapore Airlines lessor extent Virgin Group, the other major shareholders are riddle with high debt.

  • Bernard


    As a small investor in Virgin I think the govt should buy out or buy to 51% of it, then turn over regional work to REX and keep a consolidated Virgin/tiger under new name as Qantas’s competitor on major city routes. As it is the airline is a tax dodge for the big 4 investors in my view and shouldnt be further supported without being held on a tight leash. Also, close its international routes bar the USA and no funding to go to keep exec pay at its levels or Purchase new aircraft- there’s plenty of good aircraft Coming on secondhand market soon enough.

  • James Scott


    Under no circumstances should Virgin be bailed out by the government. 91% foreign owned and the tax payer has to pay? No way ScoMo!

    If they collapse, so be it. Allow the carcass to be picked up by other than SIA/EY/Chinese/Branson who have no interest in helping out the Australian workers.

    Virgin has been appallingly run by management. Totally incompetent. The Government and Australian taxpayer should not be there to foot the bill.

  • BB


    Not sure if VA should be bailed out, but some of the comments above need correction. VA is an Australian company, pays tax in Australia and its employees are Australian and pay tax in Australia. Yes, it is foreign owned and as the global airline industry is in corona-pain, there is no bail out coming from owners who are also airlines! Worse than that, Etihad is in financial trouble, Singapore airlines received a huge loan from their Government to survive, HNA as a global group has been in melt down for several years and have been selling all its investments to survive. So no, VA’s owners won’t/can’t be handing out cash. It all just boils down to how many more people the Australian government wants on the dole line. 8000+ VA employees, plus the same again in direct and in-direct suppliers (i.e. other Australian businesses and companies) that rely on VA flying.

  • Paul R


    Same goes for REX, let their Singapore Billionare owner bail them out!

  • Brian


    I agree with Anthony Albanese that the Government should take an equity stake in Virgin. It will secure the business and therefore jobs. Other airlines that part-own Virgin are in no financial state to inject funds into Virgin A. Suggestions that a small (read Miniscule) Australian operator rising to the challenge of taking on Qantas, are little more than a pipe dream, as this would require many years and $Billions in capital, let alone Qantas’s rabid attacks on anything that may threaten it’s dominance. Maintaining the status quo is by far the best outcome for the nation.

  • Jack from Winton


    Why should the Australian taxpaper pay an Irishmans’s inflated salary?
    The Australian taxpayer once owned all the shares in Qantas and TAA.

  • JæŠ


    Just wait until the final cost of all ScoVid’s bailout welfare gets tallied up.

    It will be one to tell the grandkids about because they will be paying for it in taxes.

    How good is the sh!tHouse economy

  • Cambo


    I fully agree with BB that Virgin is part of Australia’s infrastructure, regardless of the specific ownership details. Much of our real estate, our food production and ports are also overseas owned, and Qantas ownership only has to be 50% Australian. If Virgin fails in 2 months when the money runs out, and we don’t bail it out, will we then allow the same to happen to Qantas in November, when its money also runs out? Then we’ll have no Australian airline at all, and we’ll catch the train instead. Or invite a completely foreign owned and controlled airline in? Yes, Virgin has been poorly managed in the past, but the new CEO was on the cusp of finally restructuring and streamlining the business, and should be allowed to complete the job. For the country’s benefit. The US government has chosen to underwrite its “private” airlines.

  • Meepa


    So sick of this argument that its in Australia so it pays all the various taxes like fuel taxes and employment taxes etc. Come on, are we 12 years old!?
    The Airline is a tax write off, and shifts profits like any other large corporation, but with this industry somehow its “to big to fail”. NO WAY.
    I don’t wish for them to go under, but tell that to the 700+ people they sacked at Tigerair recently, only to get Virgin Pilots and staff to do the same job! Another illegal move under the guise of a “crisis”. Tell that to the pilots and staff at tigerair on the unemployment line with mortgages and kids.
    Well done Virgin, you cannot have my tax payer money only to possible fail if your BILLIONAIRE investors dont wont to use their own cash.
    YOUR A PRIVATE COMPANY and therefore have to make money, until then, go pound sand!
    Oh, and for the “Qantas will raise airfares” argument; What a load of trollop, yes it may happen to a point, however, dont you think that the amount of people watching this would cause massive backlash!? Come on! And if airfares air high all that does is make incentives for another competitor into the market!

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