All sorts of conspiracy theories are flying around about Chris Corrigan’s plans for Virgin Blue and Richard Branson’s plans for Australia. Singapore Airlines is said to be absolutely furious with Branson after he announced plans to establish an Australian-owned airline to challenge Qantas on the Pacific route.

Wouldn’t it be simpler to declare that Virgin Blue is now controlled by Australian interests through Patrick Corp and should therefore be allowed to compete with Qantas on the Australian flights to LA?

Singapore Airlines, ably assisted by its Liberal fundraising director and ANZ chairman Charles Goode, has been lobbying long and hard for approval to compete with Qantas on the Pacific route, and Branson should be a supportive partner through their joint ownership of Virgin Atlantic.

Rupert Murdoch wanted Ansett to launch into the Pacific route when News Corp still owned half of that business, but was vetoed every time by his then partners in Ansett, the clowns in charge of Air New Zealand. Rupert had the last laugh by selling his 50% of Ansett to Air New Zealand for almost $580 million a year before it collapsed in a screaming heap.

Meanwhile, News Ltd’s Terry McCrann has remained surprisingly quiet about Virgin Blue over the last two days, as his prognosis that Chris Corrigan is a genius looks more and more dubious.

Remember how Terry attacked all the “experts” when Virgin Blue shares rose 13c to $2.03 on Monday after the Patrick bid lapsed last Friday. Well, Virgin Blue shares on Wednesday fell 10c back to the Patrick bid price of $1.90. Patrick itself continues to struggle, hovering near a four-month low at $5.75 as the market remains uncomfortable with its $1 billion exposure to Virgin Blue.

If Patrick shares remains weak, Branson could always get the last laugh over Corrigan by spending $800 million and picking up a 20% shareholding. After all, Corrigan’s chief backer over the years, Peter Scanlon, has been selling down his holdings and the company is now vulnerable to take over given the two driving forces now own less than 10 per cent between them.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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