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Fiji attorney-general says airline ‘circumventing the system’

Tevita Vuibau

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, April 19, 2012) – Qantas is still exploring options to sell its minority stake in Air Pacific and has rejected suggestions it is doing so by acting outside the agreement it has with the national airline.

This follows allegations by Attorney-General and Civil Aviation Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum that Qantas was trying to circumvent an agreement with the government regarding the sale of shares.

In announcing the new Civil Aviation (Control and Ownership of National Airlines) Decree, Mr. Sayed-Khaiyum said Qantas had indicated its willingness to sell its shares.

"They have told us they are willing to sell their shares and we have told them that we must follow the mechanisms set down in the shareholders agreement," he said.

"Normally you say that if somebody wants to buy then you make an offer and, of course, vice versa, if they want to sell."

Mr. Sayed-Khaiyum said the shareholders' agreement had definite boundaries to allow for negotiations on the price of shares.

"The agreement says that if somebody makes an offer to sell, if the other party wants to buy, then they can go ahead and buy.

"If the other party wants to buy but doesn't agree on a price, then you go off to an independent valuer."

He said the independent valuer would then decide the value of the shares and that would be the price for the shares to be bought and sold.

"But they are not saying it's an offer, they are saying it's a proposal. Now if it's noted as an offer then the shareholders agreement kicks in.

"So they are circumventing the system by saying it's a proposal."

However, a Qantas spokesman denied there was any wrongdoing on the part of the Australian national airline.

"Qantas has previously stated that we are exploring options to sell our minority stake in Air Pacific," he said.

"We reject any suggestions that we have acted outside any agreement in relation to Air Pacific.

"Qantas is continuing to assess the implications of the Fijian government's decision to change the airline ownership laws in Fiji and determine what impact this has on our minority shareholding in Air Pacific."

Mr. Sayed-Khaiyum said when announcing the new decree that the share price negotiations had progressed.

"Where we are at the moment is that they are saying that they want to agree beforehand as to where we will go for the valuation before they make the offer.

"So we have said to them they need to be transparent in all of this and we are at that particular stage."

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