Qantas has agreed to sell its 12.4 per cent stake in Helloworld for $33 million.
The news also means Andrew Finch, the airline group’s general counsel, has stepped down as a director of the travel agent.
The sale was priced at $1.72 per share, and the transaction will be recognised in Qantas’ FY23 accounts.
Qantas has been a shareholder since 2008 when the company was spun off from a merger of Qantas Holidays and Jetset Travel.
Helloworld itself was launched in 2013 after the consolidation of Harvey World Travel, Travelscene, Jetset and Travelworld.
A merger with the AOT Group followed in 2016 before the business name was changed to Helloworld Travel in 2017.
It today employs more than 600 staff throughout Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Europe.
Qantas’ chief financial officer, Vanessa Hudson, said, “Our stake in Helloworld has reduced over several years and now is the right time for us to exit as shareholders.
“We’ve announced some major investments this year as we focus on what is core to the Group going forward, including fleet renewal, growing our network and a successful expansion into the e-commerce holiday booking space with TripADeal.”
It significantly comes after the ACCC said it would take until March 2023 to deliver its verdict on whether it would allow Qantas to purchase all of charter and FIFO specialist Alliance.
The airline said in a withering response that the third delay would amount to “one of the longest processes for informal clearance in recent times”.
Qantas first announced the deal in May before the ACCC in August raised concerns in its preliminary report into the takeover.
Alliance is an aviation services company based in Brisbane, Townsville, Cairns and Perth. It specialises in private charter flight services to corporate customers (such as flights for workers to mines in remote areas) as well as some regional services available to the public.
Alliance holds a wet lease agreement with Virgin to use its smaller aircraft fleet for charter and FIFO operations.
The ACCC has raised concerns, therefore, that Qantas could either stop that deal, or increase the price, hurting competition.
It comes following a breathless period for the FIFO sector as larger airlines look to invest in its more reliable services during the difficult post-pandemic recovery.
Rex has already purchased Cobham, which has been cleared by the ACCC, while Virgin faces losing its current tie up with Alliance even if Qantas’ deal doesn’t go head, following an early ACCC report.