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Qantas Shares Fall on Buyout Opposition Concerns

Shares in Australia's Qantas Airways fell to a three-month low on Tuesday amid growing concern some key shareholders may block an $8.7 billion buyout bid for the airline.

Qantas shares fell 1.6% percent to A$5.08 in heavy trade by late morning, building on losses in the previous three sessions.

"There is definite risk that some of the major institutions are going to knock it back, but if I was them I would walk away." Aequs Securities dealer Ric Klusman said.

A consortium including Macquarie Bank and private equity firm Texas Pacific Group needs 90% of shareholder acceptances for its A$5.45 per share offer for the national carrier.

UBS Global Asset Management and Balanced Equity Management have privately criticized the offer as too low and may use their combined stakes to block a bid, local newspapers say.

The Australian Financial Review said Tuesday that both shareholders last week refused an offer to sell their stakes to hedge funds at a level higher than the market share price.

UBS declined to comment, while Balanced was not immediately available to comment.

However, the bidding consortium -- which also includes Allco Equity Partners, Allco Finance Group and Canadian investment firm Onex Corp. -- has said it will not raise its offer for Qantas.

The consortium has extended its offer period to April 3.

The Australian government cleared the bid last week, though a newspaper poll on Tuesday found 56% of voters opposed the sale of Qantas, a national icon dubbed the flying kangaroo.

There have been growing signs institutional shareholders in Australia are pushing for bids from private equity to carry higher prices.

Three key shareholders in Australian sporting goods retailer Rebel Sport have indicated they may vote against a A$368 million ($290 million) takeover offer on Thursday.

Earlier this month, shares in travel retailer Flight Centre fell as much as 15% after a planned A$1.6 billion management buyout deal backed by Pacific Equity Partners was rejected by key shareholders.

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