Air NZ lifts stake in Virgin Australia

AIR New Zealand has agreed to lift its holding in Virgin Australia to about 23 percent from 19.99 percent in a series of off-market transactions and indicated it may seek to hold as much as 26 percent.

New Zealand's state-controlled airline paid about A$72 million for the shares, with the largest purchase being for 77.4 million shares at 47.68 Australian cents apiece, or A$36.9 million under a forward transaction with Gresham Property Investments.

The agreement is subject to approvals from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and Foreign Investment Review Board.

"Air New Zealand will consider acquiring up to a further 3 percent of the shares in Virgin Australia, to the extent it is permitted to do so under the Australian Corporations Act, and has made an application to FIRB on that basis," the airline said.

Air NZ said it isn't seeking a seat on Virgin's board and doesn't have plans to take control of the Australian airline.

The New Zealand carrier's shares fell 0.3 percent to $1.465 on the NZX and have gained 14 percent this year. Virgin last traded at 46 Australian cents on the ASX.