It’s all very well for the Qantas board, Peter Costello and various other pundits to now be sticklers for probity, process and the law, but where the hell were they for the past two months when Qantas was clearly majority foreign-owned and in breach of the Qantas Sale Act?
The $11 billion privatisation has been destroyed by a group of foreign hedge funds who were not legally entitled to own such a large chunk of the airline, let alone directly determine its destiny.
Hedge funds have long been regarded as a law unto themselves and on Friday night, before retreating to the Senate Bar, the Macquarie Bank-assembled bidding team decided to vindictively expose the 68-year-old New York billionaire Samuel Heyman as being the man responsible for APA’s failure.
The Saturday papers widely reported that Heyman controlled 10% of Qantas after being briefed by the Macquarie Bank boys who first came up against him when he bought into the London Stock Exchange last year.
But how on earth could Heyman own 10% of Qantas when he never lodged a substantial shareholder notice which is required for all investors with more than 5%? These are the publicly known positions of the largest Qantas shareholders before the 36% held by APA last Thursday night is put back to the original shareholders:
4 May : Credit Suisse 11.73%
30 March : Deutsche Bank 10.66%
22 March : UBS 10.40%
Was Heyman’s stake hidden by some of these foreign investment banks or just flagrantly not declared in breach of Australian law?
Heyman wasn’t legally allowed to buy a 10% stake in Qantas — let alone largely foreign-controlled hedge funds a collective 40-45% stake — because the law states that the airline must be majority-Australian-owned.
The Qantas board allowed the law to be flagrantly broken and never said boo about it. The last update on foreign ownership was provided six months ago.
Peter Costello directly controls the Foreign Investment Review Board which should conduct an immediately inquiry into this shambolic situation.