Virgin Australia, the discount airline that's owned in part (but not in whole) by Sir Richard Branson's privately held Virgin Group, filed for bankruptcy in April after being denied a $964 million bailout loan from the Australian government. Two months later, bankruptcy proceedings are wrapping up and ... we have a winner.
Bain Capital won the auction to acquire Virgin Australia, announced bankruptcy administrator Deloitte Thursday night. The U.S.-based private equity firm "presented a strong and compelling bid for the business that will secure the future of Australia's second airline, thousands of employees and their families and ensure Australia continues to enjoy the benefits of a competitive aviation sector,"
Whatever the merits of its offer, Bain's victory was essentially foreordained because the way things shook out -- it ended up being the only bidder for bankrupt Virgin Australia. Its final rival, New York-based hedge fund Cyrus Capital Partners, dropped out of the proceedings Thursday.
Bain's final offer has not been revealed. Whatever it was, however, it's unlikely that the "bid" will result in actual money being paid to Virgin Australia's current shareholders. The airline is AU$7 billion ($4.8 billion) in debt, and it's uncertain that all of its debt holders will get their money back. Shareholders get paid after debt holders in bankruptcy proceedings, so in all likelihood, before the trustees get that far down the list, the money will be gone -- and shareholders will be wiped out entirely.
That being said, Bain has promised to ante up enough money after taking ownership to recapitalize Virgin Australia sufficiently to at least enable the airline to make it through the end of the current recession.