Air New Zealand to increase Virgin stake

Air New Zealand (ASX:AIZ) has received authorisation from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to increase its stake in Virgin Australia (ASX:VAH) by another 6%.

Air New Zealand currently holds 19.99% of Virgin, but wants to increase its stake to 25.99%. Today the ACCC said it would not oppose the proposed acquisition.

“The ACCC concluded that the proposed acquisition would not be likely to result in a substantial lessening of competition in any market as it would not provide Air New Zealand with the ability to control or materially influence Virgin or significantly affect Air New Zealand’s incentives to compete with Virgin,” ACCC Commissioner Jill Walker said.

Just two days ago, the ACCC authorised the two airlines to continue their trans-Tasman alliance for another five years – after granting rival Qantas Airways (ASX:QAN) and partner Emirates  authorisation for their five-year trans-Tasman alliance.

Virgin has some notable majority shareholders on its register, with Etihad increasing its stake to 12.3% from 10.5% earlier this week. Etihad has permission to increase its stake to as much as 19.9%. Singapore Airlines already holds 19.9% of Virgin, while Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group still retains a 13% holding.

For all three international airlines, Virgin is an important alliance partner, giving them access to Australia’s domestic market, while giving Virgin customers plenty of options should they want to travel to Europe. Singapore offers flights through Asia, while Etihad has its base in Abu Dhabi, in the Middle East.

With three major airlines as backers, Virgin certainly has the firepower to take on Qantas domestically, while potentially offering more options for international travellers. Virgin is attempting to steal Qantas’ dominant market share locally, while Qantas has said that it will take whatever steps necessary to protect its 65% market share.

Foolish takeaway

If Air New Zealand does increase its stake up to 25.99%, it will mean just four majority shareholders hold more than 70% of Virgin. That could move higher, and we could see Virgin left with very few minority shareholders.

Interested in our #1 dividend-paying stock? Discover The Motley Fool’s favourite income idea for 2013-2014 in our brand-new, FREE research report, including a full investment analysis! Simply click here for your FREE copy of “The Motley Fool’s Top Dividend Stock for 2013-2014.”

More reading

Motley Fool writer/analyst Mike King doesn’t own shares in any companies mentioned.

Two New Stock Picks Every Month!

Not to alarm you, but you’re about to miss a very important event! Chief Investment Advisor Scott Phillips and his team at Motley Fool Share Advisor are about to reveal their latest official stock recommendation. The premium “buy alert” will be unveiled to members and you can be among the first to act on the tip.

Don’t let this opportunity pass you by – this is your chance to get in early!

Simply enter your email now to find out how you can get instant access.

By clicking this button, you agree to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. We will use your email address only to keep you informed about updates to our website and about other products and services we think might interest you. You can unsubscribe from Take Stock at anytime. Please refer to our Financial Services Guide (FSG) for more information.