Update (9 November, 2022): Helloworld shares fell 9.7 per cent to $1.77 once the market opened today, following the announcement that took place outside of trading hours. This share price level is still above the sale price for Qantas' transaction.
Travel agency Helloworld (ASX: HLO) is now flying solo following a final sell-off of shares from substantial shareholder Qantas Group (ASX: QAN), which has been invested in the group since it was spun off in 2008 after a merger of Qantas Holidays and Jetset Travel.
Having steadily reduced its stake in the travel agency over time, after the market closed today Qantas announced it had agreed to sell its remaining 12.4 per cent share for approximately $33 million as it sharpens its focus on post-COVID recovery.
The share sale was at a price of $1.72 per share with the transaction to be recognised in Qantas’ FY23 accounts.
"Our stake in Helloworld has reduced over several years and now is the right time for us to exit as shareholders," says Qantas Group chief financial officer Vanessa Hudson.
"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 ecommerce holiday booking space with TripADeal.
"We’ll continue to have a very strong relationship with Helloworld as a trade partner, and travel agencies in general remain an important pillar of how millions of trips are booked every year,” Ms Hudson added.
In a statement, Helloworld CEO Andrew Burnes thanked Qantas for its long-term investment in the company, and in particular Qantas general counsel Andrew Finch "for his outstanding service" as a director of Helloworld for the past six years.
He added the sale would significantly expand the company's free float.
"We also welcome to the register a range of institutions who participated in the book build," Burnes said.
"Many of these are existing shareholders in the business however there are some new shareholders, most of whom we have presented to over recent months and it is exciting to see their belief in the business and the services we offer the travelling public in Australia, New Zealand and Fiji."
The divestment of Helloworld follows Qantas’ sale of almost 14 hectares of industrial land near its Mascot headquarters in Sydney for $802 million in late 2021.
The COVID-19 pandemic led to accumulated losses of almost $7 billion for the airline, although in the current half year the group is expecting a $1.2-1.3 billion profit, which if it transpires would represent a roughly $3 billion year-on-year turnaround.
Qantas Group is still falling behind in customer service however, particularly with its budget airline subsidiary Jetstar which has become notorious for last-minute cancellations and a dearth - and sometimes complete lack - of alternative, same-day options for affected customers.
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