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Air NZ bailed out by govt loan

Published: 10:10PM Thursday September 13, 2001

Air New Zealand has announced the biggest loss in the country's corporate history, and on the same day the airline has been rescued by a government bailout after writing off most of its failed investment in Ansett Australia.

Air New Zealand has posted a loss of more than $1.4 billion for the last year, more than double last year's loss of $600 million.

The airline has also been forced to write off almost $1.3 billion.

"We regret that we had to take some very hard decisions last night," Acting Air NZ chairman Dr Jim Farmer says.

Air NZ has had to bite the bullet and cut the troubled Ansett Australia loose.

"I'm absolutely shattered that this has occurred to Ansett and to its employees because those people have been wonderfully loyal," says Air NZ CEO Gary Toomey.

Some 16,000 workers may soon be out of a job.

Several parties are involved in the bailout of New Zealand's national carrier.

The government will lend $550 million of taxpayers money. Air NZ shareholders Brierleys and Singapore Airlines will put up $150 million each.

There were mixed feelings about the bailout on the streets, but Finance Minister Michael Cullen says there was no other choice.

"It would not have been possible to reconstruct the company without the government coming in as a lender," Cullen says.

In its defence Air New Zealand says it inherited a neglected airline without proper accounts.

"We were working in a situation of not just trying to fix an airline, but we were working in an information void," Toomey says.

In return for its help, the government has approval over two places on the airline's board, as well as the chair.