Bonza buyer interest claim despite sky-high $110m debt

Alex Mitchell |

About 20 groups have shown interest in buying Bonza, administrators told a creditors’ meeting.
About 20 groups have shown interest in buying Bonza, administrators told a creditors’ meeting.

Administrators for beleaguered budget carrier Bonza insist there are still multiple parties interested in buying the cash-strapped airline despite it owing about $110 million.

The extent of the low-cost airline’s financial woes were laid bare at its first creditors’ meeting in Sydney on Friday.

Bonza owes nearly $77 million across two loans, almost $16 million to trade creditors and another $10 million to landlords.

Other debt include more than $5 million in staff wages and annual leave entitlements and $3 million to government authorities such as the Australian Taxation Office.

Plane lessors, who sparked a crisis of cancellations at Bonza by terminating agreements and repossessing aircraft, are owed $4.6 million.

Bonza has cancelled flights until at least Wednesday.

But administrator Richard Albarran, from Hall Chadwick, said several parties had expressed interest in taking over the airline, adding a timeline on any sale of the company would be set out over the weekend.

Bonza flight cancellations.
Bonza flights have been cancelled until at least Wednesday, affecting more than 57,000 customers. (HANDOUT/BONZA)

Talks have been held with about 20 interested groups, including airlines and companies from the travel industry, the meeting was told.

Further details were not provided on the grounds of commercial sensitivity, but Mr Albarran confirmed at least one of the interested parties had planes “ready to deploy quickly”.

Administrators have talked with state and federal governments about an assistance package, but none has been finalised.

Administrator Kathleen Vouris said a detailed financial report would be prepared in about five weeks before creditors voted on ending the administration, a deed of company arrangement or liquidation.

Multiple creditors asked if Bonza had been trading while insolvent, to which Mr Albarran replied the airline had been at least operating with “clearly significant financial difficulties”.

But he said it was too early for any formal breaches of director duties or a ruling of insolvent trading to be made.

The meeting was told sourcing new planes could take about three months, although a short-term lease could be available more quickly.

The more than 57,000 customers who had flights cancelled were encouraged to contact their financial institution or travel insurance providers, but they will not be provided a refund by Bonza.

Another administrator, Cameron Shaw, began the meeting by apologising to Bonza’s staff, suppliers and customers.

But he outlined a “Bonza-sized opportunity” in Australia’s competitive and concentrated airline market, insisting he was “hopeful of a positive resolution” for the company’s future.

More than 300 Bonza staff remain stood down.