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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 May 2007, 10:23 GMT 11:23 UK
Deadline looms for Qantas offer
Qantas tailfins

A lengthy battle to buy iconic Australian airline Qantas could yet end in a win for the bidders, the consortium behind the offer says.

So far, 32.96% of Qantas shareholders have backed the bid, Airline Partners Australia said.

But the consortium, which includes Australia's Macquarie Bank, remains well short of the 50% acceptances required ahead of a deadline on Friday.

The group has bid 11.1bn Australian dollars ($9.2bn; 4.6bn) for Qantas.

Despite the shortfall in acceptances, analysts anticipated a late rush of shareholder support for the offer.

"Like uni students, journalists and taxpayers, shareholders work to the deadline," said BBY analyst Fabian Babich. "Quite rationally, they seek to retain control of their shares for as long as they can."

Union worries

Macquarie, together with US private equity group Texas Pacific, launched its A$5.45-per-share offer for Qantas late last year.

The takeover bid, one the biggest so far tabled in Australian corporate history, would create one of the world's leading airlines.

But concerns have been raised by politicians and trade unions over possible job losses, although the Australian government has said it would not oppose the takeover of the airline.

Qantas chairwoman Margaret Jackson warned in March that the airline could be "destabilised" if the offer failed to get off the ground.

The deadline for the bid is due to expire at 0900 GMT (7pm local time) on Friday.

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