Fresh from scoring the scalp of Tabcorp CEO Matthew Slatter, outspoken fund manager Peter Morgan has now taken aim at the Qantas private equity bid. He writes:

Geoff Dixon and the senior management of Qantas have a major conflict of interest. Qantas is continually saying they won’t provide forecasts to shareholders who are being asked to accept a takeover yet management, who could be a big winner from the takeover via a free equity carry, must have access to current trading, budgets and plans for the future.

While Morgan’s 452 Capital owns no Qantas shares, he is Australia’s strongest institutional campaigner for good corporate governance.

The AFR reports today that Qantas chairman Margaret Jackson is meeting with CEO Geoff Dixon and CFO Peter Gregg to decide on the form in which they will release a profit forecast for 2007-08. There’s no way UBS Asset Management or Balanced Equity will accept the bid without it.

Sure enough, this statement was released this morning, endorsing the average 2007-08 analyst forecast of $1.23 billion, with plenty of qualifications, of course.

Balanced Equity’s Andrew Sisson steps out at the ISS Conference with the regulators tomorrow at 10.45am and will surely be asked whether this is good enough during the designated half hour Q&A session. The stock is up 6c to $5.10 in a rising market this morning.

Meanwhile, it was most amusing to see a decidedly uncomfortable looking Eddie McGuire on page 3 of The Courier Mail today, jetting his way north to last night’s gala Gold Coast launch of the NRL season.

Eddie’s discomfort is caused by the fact that he and all the other VIPs, including the beaming NRL chief David Gallop, are jammed into the all-economy cabin of a Jetstar A320 along with every other hapless punter.

Now that Qantas director James Packer is a board member of the Gold Coast-based Sunland, surely this folly of using Jetstar into the Gold Coast can be fixed. Few people realise that Macquarie Bank managing director Allan Moss personally owns a 10% stake in Coolangatta Airport, which doesn’t see any Qantas-branded aircraft these days.

Australia’s tourist Mecca deserves better. Is it any wonder the tourism industry, which relies so much on yield from the business class demographic, is struggling?

The lack of business class is forcing most of the Coast’s often sizeable business types to either slum it in cattle class or motor up the M1 for the Qantas Club service at Brisbane Airport.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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