Etihad Announces Clearance for Larger Virgin Stake
Dire news keeps piling up for Qantas, Australia’s beloved carrier. Etihad Airways announced today it has been approved by the Foreign Investment Board to double its stake in Virgin Australia, resulting in a sizeable 10 per cent stake in the company.
Etihad has appreciated a 10-year partnership with Virgin and entered into the Australian market just five years ago. The carriers operate 24 flights a week between Abu Dhabi and Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, with plans to service Perth in the future.
Significant revenues have resulted from the arrangement, Etihad said in a released statement today, adding "It is expected that the equity stake in Virgin Australia will lead to further revenue generating opportunities.” Codesharing, joint bidding for corporate contracts and reciprocal frequent flyer benefits are involved in the carriers’ international flights.
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The Abu Dhabi-based carrier has had a 4.99 per cent equity stake in Virgin Australia since early 2012, and as the gravity of the situation has deepened, Qantas has taken measures to protect its position in the industry.
Lobbying government and opposition politicians regarding their concern on Etihad’s desire to invest in Virgin Australia, Qantas said the company is aiming to "cross-subsidise Virgin's domestic business with the specific aim of weakening Qantas.”
Current Virgin Australia shareholders include Sir Richard Branson’s UK-based Virgin Atlantic Group, claiming a 26 per cent stake, with a 19.9 per cent stake owned by Air New Zealand. Earlier in the year, Quantas Airways called for Virgin Australia’s proposed ownership structure – in which the carrier’s international operations would be transferred to a separate, unlisted entity owned by current shareholders – to be analysed by regulators.
Business Chief Legend: Ho Ching, CEO of Temasek
Ask Singaporeans who Ho Ching is, and the majority will answer the ‘wife of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’. And that’s certainly true. However, she’s also the CEO of Temasek Holdings, Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund, and one of the world’s largest investment companies.
Well, she is until October 1, 2021, as she recently announced she would be retiring following 16 years as CEO of the investment giant.
Since taking the reins in 2004, two years after joining Temasek as Executive Director, Ho has gradually transformed what was an investment firm wholly owned by Singapore’s Government into an active investor worldwide, splashing out on sectors like life sciences and tech, expanding its physical footprint with 11 offices worldwide (from London to Mumbai to San Francisco) and delivering growth of US$120 billion between 2010-2020.
Described by Temasek chairman Lim Boon Heng as having taken “bold steps to open new pathways in finding the character of the organisations”, Ho is credited with building Temasek’s international portfolio, with China recently surpassing Singapore for the first time.
As global a footprint as Ho may have however, she has her feet firmly planted on Singapore soil and is committed to this tiny city-state where she was not only educated (excluding a year at Stanford) but has remained throughout her long and illustrious career – first as an engineer at the Ministry of Defence in 1976, where she met her husband, and most notably as CEO of Singapore Technologies, where she spent a decade, and where she is credited with repositioning and growing the group into the largest listed defence engineering company in Asia.
It’s little wonder Ho has featured on Forbes’ annual World’s Most Powerful Women list for the past 16 years, in 2007 as the third most powerful woman in business outside the US, and in 2020 at #30 worldwide.
But it’s not all business. Ho has a strong track record in Singapore public service, serving as chairman of the Singapore Institute of Standards and Industrial Research and as deputy chairman of the Economic Development Board; and is a committed philanthropist with a focus on learning difficulties and healthcare.
As the pandemic kicked off, she not only led active investments in technology and life sciences, with German COVID-19 vaccine developer BioNTech among the most recent additions to Temasek’s portfolio, but through the Temasek Foundation – the firm’s philanthropic arm which supports vulnerable groups close to Ho’s heart, handed out hand sanitiser and face masks.
So, you would be forgiven for thinking that at age 68, Ho might simply relax. But in March 2021, just as she announced her retirement from Temasek, Ho joined the Board of Directors of Wellcome Leap, a US-based non-profit organisation that’s dedicated to accelerating innovations in global health. Not ready to put her firmly grounded feet up yet it seems.