In 1995, when Qantas was privatised, the government set rules capping single stake ownership of the airline at 25 per cent, total foreign ownership at 49 per cent, and total ownership by foreign airlines at 35 per cent.
Qantas is in the early stages of buyout talks with US private equity investor Texas Pacific Group and Macquarie Bank, Australia's largest investment firm, Geoff Dixon, chief executive of Qantas, has said.
Dixon said the foreign ownership stake would be below the 49 per cent cap and possibly below 46 per cent.
Qantas shares have seesawed, jumping as high as 20 per cent after Qantas confirmed the bid.
Details of the proposed deal have not been released but analysts predict it will be in the $8.5bn range.
Dixon said 93 per cent of Qantas workers are employed in Australia and the deal, if finalised, would probably not change that figure.