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Australia rejected Qantas request for $2.7 B loan

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 5, 2014 at 9:45 am •  Published: March 5, 2014

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia's government rejected a request from Qantas Airways for a $2.7 billion unsecured loan to help the national carrier return to profitability, deciding instead to abolish foreign ownership restrictions, the prime minister said Wednesday.

In the wake of Monday's decision to allow greater foreign ownership of Qantas, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said his ministers had acted on expert advice from accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers to decide that Qantas did not need the line of credit.

"We sent in various experts to have a look at Qantas, and the conclusion that we came to based on their advice was that Qantas does not need an unsecured facility from the government," Abbott told Macquarie Radio on Wednesday.

The airline last week posted a first-half loss of 235 million Australian dollars ($211 million) amid tougher competition. Qantas said it would cut 5,000 jobs in a bid to slash costs by AU$2 billion over three years.

Qantas' credit rating was downgraded from investment grade to junk in December when it warned of a looming interim loss of up to AU$300 million and job cuts.

The government plans to repeal legislation that prevents foreign airlines from holding more than 35 percent of Qantas and any single foreign investor from holding more than a 25 percent stake. The legislation also mandates 51 percent Australian ownership.

Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce on Wednesday welcomed the government's decision to allow more foreign investment, which he said would "level the playing field" with its major competitor Virgin Australia. Virgin Australia is 64 percent owned by three state-owned carriers: Air New Zealand, Etihad Airways and Singapore Airlines.

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