The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has quietly concluded a long-running probe into Qantas' purchase of almost 20% of Alliance Airlines, located in Brisbane. The ACCC began its inquiry in 2019 and has now completed it three years later with no negative findings.
The ACCC wrote to Alliance Airlines this week, according to a story in The Australian newspaper on Tuesday, telling them there was nothing to see here.
"Although the ACCC is not intending to take any further enforcement action in connection to this subject at this time," the newspaper reports the ACCC's letter as stating, "it will continue to monitor Qantas's behaviour in relation to Alliance and may take action at a later time."
In 2019, Qantas paid roughly US$45 million for a 19.9% interest in Alliance Airlines, making it the airline's largest stakeholder. It caused significant concern among the competition watchdogs at the time, as Qantas already held the largest share of Australia's domestic aviation industry.
“We consider this shareholding has the potential to impact Alliance’s future growth and its ability to be a strong competitor. It may impact Alliance’s ability to grow by raising investors' funds or to consider rival takeover approaches. It may also impact whether Alliance’s customers perceive it to be an independent rival to Qantas,” said ACCC Chair Rod Sims.
Qantas protested vehemently that it intended to be a hands-off majority stakeholder, and to be fair, it has done nothing to modify its mind since then. Alliance was working on a charter alliance arrangement with Virgin Australia at the time. Virgin's ownership has changed since then, and the connection between the two airlines is no longer what it once was.