Private equity concerns in Australia
Private equity buyouts are becoming a big issue in Australia - where the government is considering the purchase of national flag carrier Qantas by a consortium headed by Macquarie Bank.
Unions are campaigning strongly against the A$11bn private equity takeover of the airline, which is currently being considered by the Australian Government and its Foreign Investment Board. The consortium includes US private equity giant Texas Pacific Group.
The government has to decide whether to give the go ahead for the biggest private equity takeover so far in Australia and, if so, under what conditions.
Australian trade union centre ACTU and airline affiliates are pressing for the takeover to be blocked, with concerns high over the future job security of the 37,000 employees in Australia.
“Our national airline Qantas is about to be sold off, and (government) Treasurer Peter Costello refuses to guarantee that the jobs of Australian workers won’t be sent offshore," says ACTU launching an online campaign on its Rights at Work website
Two other private US equity giants - Blackstone and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts - were involved in a recent attempt to buyout Australia’s second biggest retailer, the newly re-named Coles Group.
Two approaches from the private equity groups were turned down by the retailer - which had earlier sold off its Myer brand to a separate private equity group.
“Our relations with the new owner of Myer is very good and we continue to negotiate with the company for a new collective agreement,” reports Joe de Bryn, National Secretary of commerce affiliate SDA and UNI-Asia Pacific president.
Meanwhile back at Coles Group a third of head office jobs - 2,500 people - are being cut in a substantial reorganisation to try and head off further approaches for a private equity buyout.
But warns Joe de Bruyn: “this makes the company very unstable”.
The Australian government is very sensitive about private equity takeovers and their impact on employment, particularly with a federal election due in the second half of this year.