Four private equity firms are the leading candidates to buy Virgin Australia, the biggest regional casualty of the coronavirus crisis in the global aviation industry.
Melbourne-based BGH Capital and American private equity firms Bain Capital, Indigo Partners and Cyrus Capital Partners made the shortlist from bids submitted last week, a source told Reuters.
The administrators Deloitte have not named the parties but said on Monday they had shortlisted “a small number of well-funded parties with strong aviation credentials” who were invited to the next stage of the sale process.
Phoenix-based Indigo Partners owns US airline Frontier Airlines and Chilean carrier JetSmart, while New York and London-based Cyrus Capital Partners was recently involved in collapsed British regional airline Flybe.
BGH, a private equity firm founded in 2017, also on Monday entered into exclusive talks to acquire theme park and cinema owner Village Roadshow.
Tentative offers were due on Friday and Deloitte Restructuring Services partner Vaughan Strawbridge said they had received more interest than anticipated.
“We are delighted by the strength of each of those on the shortlist, with parties selected being well funded and possessing deep aviation experience.
“Importantly, each has a plan for the business which can secure the future for thousands of Virgin Australia employees.”
He said administrators would work with them during the next four weeks to enable binding offers by mid-June.
Other parties that had put in non-binding indicative offers included Brookfield, India’s InterGlobe Enterprises and mining magnate Andrew Forrest, people with knowledge of the matter told Reuters.
Mr Strawbridge said he understood some parties would be disappointed their bid did not progress and he hoped they would respect the decision, “which is predicated on the business continuing and achieving the best outcome for all people impacted”.
The high-level interest in Virgin Australia at a time when the world aviation market is largely grounded shows the long-time attractiveness of the Australian domestic market, a duopoly between Qantas Airways and Virgin.
The shortlisted bidders were first named by The Australian Financial Review.
Virgin Australia, the country’s second-biggest airline entered voluntary administration in April, owing creditors nearly $7 billion.