The computations being done about the takeover bid for Qantas aren’t just financial – there are plenty of politics, industrial relations and sociology to consider as well.

The details leaked to the AFR today are just financial: MacBank 25%, friends of MacBank 25%, Qantas management 1%, Texas Pacific Group and other foreign investors 49%. That ticks the boxes of the present Qantas legislation ownership restrictions, but only just.

The Qantas board – Jackson, Dixon, Packer, Cosgrove  – are very much in the Howard camp of Liberal politics rather than the Costello tent. But it’s the Federal Treasurer who has the final word on any FIRB questions.

But let’s let that pass for the time being. Where’s the sociology of turning “our” national flag carrier into a toy of the Millionaire Factory and marauding private equiteers?

Macquarie certainly hasn’t covered itself in PR glory at Sydney Airport, so it’s not hard to imagine negative vibrations about what they might do if they get their hands on another essential service – albeit a duopoly rather than a monopoly. What does Barnaby think?

And then there’s the industrial relations angle. If the unions think Geoff Dixon has been a bit tough with his present ownership, they can go to another level if he’s driven by MacBank, private equiteers and a considerable ownership percentage of his own. We could be about to see another level of cost cutting altogether. Fasten your seat belts – and that’s an instruction for the pilots.

So, which politicians want to go out on a limb to protect Qantas on the Pacific route now?

Meanwhile there still are some interesting financials to consider at Qantas. One wonders just how close will be the due diligence done by Macquarie and Texas. And there’s another due diligence to consider – the depth of the management team. It’s not all straightforward by any means.

Peter Fray

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