Qatar Air to keep 15% stake in Aer Lingus firm

Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker said he is happy with the level of the company’s 15% stake in Aer Lingus and British Airways owner IAG and will not seek a seat on the company board.

Speaking yesterday at a conference in Dublin, Mr Al Baker said he views the holding as a strategic investment that will aid co-operation in areas such as joint fleet purchases, rather than a financial stake, and has no plans to raise it beyond the current level.

Qatar Air bought 9.99% of IAG in January last year before building its position by way of a series of further purchases.

While the Gulf carrier can not take a majority holding because of EU rules limiting foreign ownership to 49%, the move has fueled speculation about Al Baker’s aims.

‘We are not a hedge fund,” the CEO said in a briefing in Dublin, where he is attending the International Air Transport Association’s annual meeting.

“We are not an investor that wants to get in and get out quickly and make big bucks,” he said.

Qatar Airways first drew closer to IAG after joining its Oneworld alliance in 2013, aided by the backing of the company’s CEO Willie Walsh at a time when other carriers were openly hostile to the expansion of Gulf rivals.

Mr Al Baker said he did not discuss the investment plans with Mr Walsh before executing the stock purchases. The Qatar stake is valued at about £1.6bn (€2bn).

The Gulf executive said he has big plans for Italian airline Meridiana, in which Doha-based Qatar is also seeking to invest.

The regional carrier, which operates a fleet including 30-year-old McDonnell Douglas MD-80 series aircraft, would be rapidly expanded and repositioned, he said.


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