The Virgin Australia bidder most closely linked to Richard Branson, Cyrus Capital, has insisted it wants to maintain the business as a full-service international airline, according to reports.
Other speculation emerging ahead of Friday’s second-round deadline includes the revelation that knocked out bidders Brookfield Asset Management and the founder of Indian carrier IndiGo are both considering re-entering the competition.
On 29 May, administrator Deloitte hopes to whittle down the four current shortlisted parties – Bain Capital, BGH Capital, Indigo Partners and Cyrus Capital Partners – to become just two.
With two days to go, The Sydney Morning Herald claims Cyrus plans to keep Virgin “roughly the same size” and only cut “some” regional routes.
International flying would resume as and when coronavirus restrictions are lifted, with a new fleet of fuel-efficient 787 Dreamliners replacing its current 777s and A330s.
The newspaper’s sources also added that Virgin would keep most of its 75 737s but phase out its A320s, Fokker 100s and ATR72s.
Australian Aviation earlier reported how Cyrus Capital is based in the US but has a presence in Europe. It led a consortium that owned the ill-fated Flybe, Europe’s biggest regional carrier that became the first major casualty of the coronavirus crisis.
The AFR said the Virgin Group was already in that consortium, and plans were that a new airline would be branded ‘Virgin Connect’. In 2005, Cyrus became an investor in Virgin America, which was eventually sold to Alaska Airlines in 2016 for $2.6 billion.
Meanwhile, The Australian speculated on Wednesday that former bidders Brookfield Asset Management and InterGlobe, the major shareholder behind budget carrier IndiGo, have not “given up hope” of getting back in the race.
There is still no word on whether Queensland will, as earlier announced, throw its hat into the ring.
Only yesterday, the TWU met with the government’s Virgin representative, Nicholas Moore and told him attempts to sell the business are being impeded by lack of clarity over whether or not there will be federal help.
Unions representing the airline’s employees – who together account for 9,020 of the total number of creditors and are owed $451 million – told the media later that a lack of reassurance means serious bidders are “trying to crunch numbers in the dark”.
National secretary Michael Kaine added afterwards that interested parties “don’t know when the airline might be able to get back in the air because of state and federal restrictions and they don’t know if there will be any financial assistance. This means it is almost impossible to put together a plan for Virgin”.