Air New Zealand denied Friday that it has bought into Australia-based Virgin Blue but in a statement to the New Zealand Stock Exchange it did not rule out doing so in future.
The New Zealand flag carrier and the Australian budget airline are awaiting regulatory approval for plans to form a trans-Tasman alliance.
When the venture was announced in May both said it was not a step towards either airline taking a shareholding in the other, but Australian media reports on Friday claimed Air New Zealand wanted a 15 percent stake in Virgin Blue.
In a statement to the stock exchange, Air New Zealand denied any such share purchase but did not say it would not happen.
“Air New Zealand is conscious that airline alliances such as the one planned with Virgin Blue frequently include an equity aspect, but the proposed alliance does not do so,” the statement said.
“The necessary regulatory approvals for the trans-Tasman alliance are still in process and Air New Zealand has had no indication of the outcome of this decision.
“As a listed company… Air New Zealand is conscious of its market disclosure obligations and in the event of any such investment would advise the market in accordance with those obligations.”
The airline added it would make no further comment in regard to the speculation.
A report in the Sydney Morning Herald said a strategic stake was seen as giving Air New Zealand a foot in the door for the next wave of consolidation in the aviation industry, which is emerging from one of its worst downturns.
Virgin Blue and Qantas were often seen as likely candidates in the longer term for tie-ups with airlines in the burgeoning Asian market.
When Air New Zealand and Virgin Blue announced plans for an alliance they said it would produce cheaper fares, increased frequency and better connections.