AUSTRALIANS WANT TO SELL NWA STAKE

AUSTRALIANS WANT TO SELL NWA STAKE

Elders IXL Ltd. will have to drum up its own buyer for its 12 percent stake in Northwest Airlines' parent company, according to a source familiar with the airline's financing.

The huge Australian brewing and financial consortium invested $80 million in NWA Inc. as part of a team of new owners that bought the airline last August.The team, led by Alfred Checchi, Northwest's chairman, invested a total of $700 million in equity as part of a $3.65 billion buy-out of the airline.

Now, Elders is restructuring and will sell off non-brewing assets, including its Northwest stake, according to a story in The Wall Street Journal. Northwest spokesmen would not confirm the impending sale.

But other sources close to the financing explained that it will be up to Elders, not other Northwest owners, to find a buyer for the stock the Australian company now holds.

"There's somebody out there who will buy it," said the executive, who asked to remained unidentified, although it is unclear just how saleable the Elders stake will be.

The Elders stock is divided into two distinct holdings, including $50 million in non-voting preferred stock, and $30 million in common stock, only a small part of which is voting stock, the source said.

The preferred stock has some less desirable payoff provisions, he said, but the common stock could prove more saleable, even though it is only a minority interest.

The Elders stake isn't the only opportunity to invest in Northwest: KLM Royal Dutch Airlines was forced by U.S. Transportation Department officials to shave its $400 million equity stake to $175 million. Those funds have yet to be replaced, the source said, noting the carrier still has six months to find a substitute investor.

A likely market for the Elders stake is among other foreign investors, the source said, although any newcomer would have to win federal approval.