Texas Pacific Group chief David Bonderman must have a Chinese wall running down the middle of his head. While trying to take over Qantas as part of MacQanTexCoe, he’s launching an attack on the domestic duopoly as part of Tiger Airways.

One can only wonder if Bonderman’s APA partners knew that Tiger was going to apply for a domestic licence when they made their $11 billion takeover bid. Bonderman’s slice of Tiger is held privately, not through Texas Pacific Group, giving him an apparent conflict with the private equity investors from whom he takes very fat fees.

But then again, the whiff of a 100% foreign competitor on the domestic market might be helpful in calming any political nervousness about the APA bid. Tiger CEO Tony Davis has been on ABC News Radio this morning, saying he’s received a warm welcome in Canberra.

Taking on Virgin and Qantas/Jetstar in their own backyard would be sweet revenge for Tiger’s biggest shareholder, Singapore Airlines. Setting up a Tiger feeder network through the key capital cities also would help when Singapore finally gets approval to fly the Pacific route from Sydney when Canberra eases its Qantas/Virgin protection in an unspecified number of years.

Qantas yesterday was doing the obvious thing, saying it’s not worried by the threat of a Tiger in the back yard. Don’t believe it. Yesterday’s figures showed the Roo/Jetstar combination had increased domestic market share as the duopoly has settled down – they would hate a third party to upset balance.

But Qantas certainly has the money to fight. Geoff Dixon’s forecast of a 40% rise in this year’s profit shows just what the APA boys are after.

Maybe Bonderman thinks there’s enough growth in Australian aviation to offer him two bites at an expanding pie.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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