Chinese group buys 20% of Virgin Australia from Air NZ

Air New Zealand has entered into an agreement to sell 19.98 percent of its stake in Virgin Australia to Chinese conglomerate Nanshan Group, the company said.

The Star Alliance carrier says in a stock exchange statement that it has agreed to sell the shares at USD0.24) each. The sale will be completed once approved by the Chinese authorities.

Privately-owned Nanshan operates a diverse range of businesses in China, and is the controlling shareholder in Qingdao Airlines.

Air NZ adds that it will consider options for its remaining 6.0 percent stake in the airline in due course. In March the New Zealand carrier announced that it had engaged First NZ Capital and Credit Suisse to undertake a review of options for its 26 percent stake in Virgin, after declaring that it did not intend to hold a major minority position in the carrier. Air NZ chief Christopher Luxon also stepped down from Virgin´s board.

Nanshan will become the second Chinese investor in Virgin, after Hainan Airlines´ parent company HNA Group agreed to invest USD159 million in May for a 13.3 percent stake in the Australian carrier. It will also gain a seat on Virgin´s board.

Virgin´s other major shareholders are Singapore Airlines (22 percent) and Etihad Airways (25 percent). Virgin Group also holds a 12.4 percent stake.