SIA's costly lessons in mergers and acquisitions

SIA's costly lessons in mergers and acquisitions

The sale of Singapore Airlines' stake in Virgin Atlantic caps over a decade of mainly failed attempts by the airline to grow its equity portfolio.

So one key question shareholders will be asking SIA's top brass is: How much of the company's shareholder value has been needlessly destroyed?

Last Tuesday, SIA ended weeks of speculation by announcing that it would sell its 49 per cent stake in Virgin Atlantic to Delta Air Lines.

Delta will pay US$360 million (S$439 million), only a fraction of the £600 million (then S$1.6 billion) that SIA paid for the stake in 2000.

The other big regret for SIA was in 2004, when it sold its 6.3 per cent stake in Air New Zealand for NZ$61.7 million.

SIA had paid a total of NZ$426 million for a quarter of the Kiwi carrier in 2000, shortly after it struck the deal with Virgin.

"A simple calculator will tell you how much shareholder value they have burned. This is not an area they have a proud record of," said Mr Timothy Ross, the head of Asia-Pacific transport research at Credit Suisse.

To be fair, the ventures made strategic sense, said Mr Amartya De, a senior consultant at Frost & Sullivan.

Virgin came with the promise of a chunk of the growing European and United States market.

A stake in Air New Zealand, which co-owned the now-defunct Australian carrier Ansett, gave SIA a piece of the lucrative traffic flow between the mature markets of Australia and New Zealand, and Europe.

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