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hot global money on the loose « Previous | |Next »
December 18, 2006

I've got a deja vu feeling around the current private equity deals ---2006 feels like the 1980s. Boom times. Only this time around we are talking in terms of excess global financial capital, not the Australian banks tossing money around after the deregulation of the financial markets in the 1980s. There is lots of money in private equity consortiums floating around looking for a home, there is the loading up companies with heaps of debt, and the debt, which if all goes to plan, is to be paid out of future cash flows. Wiil there be a sell off of parts of Qantas (eg., catering, frequent fliers etc) to realize value as well as the standard cost cutting? Private equity looks like financial trickiness, leverage, engineering and speculation to me.

The private equity consortiums are out to make money from capital gain. So who suffers? Will there be job losses? Less attractive working conditions (eg., less pay)? Reduced services for consumers? The costs of running Qantas are going to be cut for sure, and changes will be forced on the workforce. Jetstar is the future. There is no doubt about that. Who, then is making the money from the deal---the fund managers or investors? Macquarie Bank is looking increasingly rapcious and arrogant these days.

Bruce Petty

I have lots of questions about Qantas because there is some crafty spin around this deal to lull us into its just 'business-as-usual.' Does the private equity deal of $11.1 billion-- a buyout to all intents and purposes --- add value to Qantas, Australia's national carrier, in the long term? It may well mean an end of government protection for Qantas in international air routes. That would trim earnings. And how does the vertical integration between Qantas and Sydney airport by Macquarie Bank foster competition? What happens to cash flow and debt repayment for Qantas if oil prices soar with high debt ratios? Or if there is a global recession and there is reduced demand for airtravel?

Why not see the private equity consortiums as private equity raiders, or leveraged buy-out firms-- looking to make money from companies that are underperforming, have low debt levels, or are underpriced by the market. The funds borrow a high proportion of the money needed to pay for the takeover and, once completed, this debt finds its way onto the books of the target company. So the company becomes a lot more highly "geared" and this debt needs to be serviced. The private equity players hope to make their killing by refloating the company for a lot more than they paid.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 7:14 AM | | Comments (13)


Same old Chestnut...Nobody complains when Australian companies go out in the world and buy up profitable businesses....Well no complaints from Oz anyway.
Yes there will be carve ups and job changing in the industry but this has been going on for a while now and at the end of the day it will be profits or losses that decide this as with any business.
Personally I dont care if the airplane has a kangaroo on it or Kiwi or a badger. As long as it gets there. Australia has very strict air safety regulations and this will not change.

It would look tricky for the Howard government if the job losses and AWA's (reduced salary and conditions) were to happen in an election year would it not?

The cost cutting is on the way--that's Dixon's strategy ---does that mean that the national carrier is no longer committed to being a "full service domestic airline"?

As I have said before I believe Howard will be putting his feet up in the first half of the year.

It will be interesting to see what happens when the Kangaroo factor is removed from has been a fabulous marketing tool for them...Australians are a fiercely patriotic bunch.

Perhaps they will change it to a Gallah or a Donkey

I do think that Canberra is uneasy about this deal. The flying kangaroo is one of Australia's global corporate brand and aviation is still one of the few sectors where governments are happy to intervene to protect the national interest. So it is a sensitive issue.

Steve Lewis in The Australian puts his finger on the unease:

The Government cannot afford our best known corporate brand to be dismantled by a bunch of suits who want to make a quick buck out of one of the best performing airlines in global aviation.There is deep-seated concern that the only people who are going to benefit from the takeover are a bunch of merchant bankers and the assorted hangers-on who will make a killing in fees and charges.

I wouldn't be suprised if a number of conditions are placed on the sale by Howard and Costello.

Yes I hazzard a guess that Governments are and will have the same outlook in regards to their Postal services too.....could be security issues?

Well more issues than those that relate to a jar of Vegemite(do they really make that stuff by grinding Koalas noses?)anyway

a jar of vegemite as an image doesn't really capture what Macquarie Bank is up to these days. Macquarie, as a global entity, roams the world seeking to control government-granted monopolies that have been privatised and inadequately regulated. It buys up the infrastructure and then extracts a fee for its daily use.

With Qantas the problem is the reversal of its former position of a high proportion of "equity capital" put up by its shareholders relative to "debt capital" borrowed from lenders. The interest owed to lenders has to be paid come hell or high water, whereas the dividends paid to shareholders can be cut when times are tough.

So what happens when things get tough with a global recession? Qantas is now more vulnerable to a downturn in its business in that if it cannot pay its interest bill, the receivers move in. Lots of cost cutting to prevent that---and that means reduced working conditons and services.

Macquarie bank seems to have a bottomless well full of money at present....I wonder where they get it from?

Fleecing us. They get a fee every time you travel on their roads, use their airports & airport trolleys, fly Qantas, use water etc etc. The money just rolls in.

There's the free market for you. Everything is privatised. MacBank don't do footpaths cos there's not enough money in it.

You have more spelling mistakes than usual lately.....usually you dont have any. Mostly your errors are double letters or missed letters.

It is going to be harder to argue against foreign airlines having access to the US Australia Market once Qantas is sold. This route alone underpins a substantial portion of Qantas's profits. How will they argue for the continued duopoly with United Airlines.

They will lobby to ensure that a highly geared Qantas relies on the continue enjoying the profits flowing from government protection as the "national carrier", while continuing to cut costs and reduce service.

A highly geared Qantas is a vulnerable company in a downturn. As Gittens points out:

The instigators of private equity deals always tell us the company they bought was undervalued - the market value of the whole company was less than the sum of the value of its parts - and badly run.This means they usually sell off bits of the business and use the proceeds to pay down debt, while undertaking a savage round of cost-cutting. Their ideas for improving a business often aren't any more sophisticated than that.

He adds that takeover merchants are notorious for paying too much for the companies they buy. And big companies have been busy cutting costs and making staff redundant for most of the past 20 years.
So the claim that there are a lot of easy savings to be made without compromising quality is getting harder and harder to credit.

He says that private equity is becoming so popular because the economy has been so healthy, profits have been growing strongly and share prices hitting record levels while interest rates have stayed relatively low. Australian share prices are not overvalued and our public companies are not highly geared. These are just the right circumstances for a boom in business borrowing to get going.

And there's a lot of foreign and local money - essentially the retirement savings of the world's middle class - roaming the world in search of profitable deals.

yes there were a lot of errors. Slackness on my part. I neglected to do a close edit.

I've gone through and edited the post and my comments.

Good, I glad.