Qatar Air ups stake in Aer Lingus owner IAG

Qatar Airways has raised its stake in IAG — which owns British Airways, Aer Lingus, Iberia, and Vueling — close to 12%, strengthening ties built around the access that BA provides to North America, via London, and the Gulf carrier’s network of Asian routes.

Qatar Air has increased the holding from the 9.99% bought in January of last year, chief executive, Akbar Al Baker, said yesterday, at the Arabian Travel Market, in Dubai, adding that “IAG is the most successful airline today”.

Shares in the UK- and Spanish-based IAG were, at one stage, 2.5% higher in London, valuing the group at £11.1bn (€14.3bn), and the 12% stake at £1.33bn.

Qatar Air drew closer to IAG, after joining its Oneworld alliance in 2013, aided by CEO, Willie Walsh, at a time when other carriers were hostile to Gulf rivals.

IAG is establishing itself as Europe’s most profitable airline business, as Air France-KLM Group and Deutsche Lufthansa grapple with unions over cost cuts.

Operating profit jumped 70%, to £2.34bn, in 2015, and the company forecasts a similar gain this year.

“Their performance is absolutely over-the-moon,” Al Baker said.

The executive also said that Qatar Air had two dividends from IAG, as International Consolidated Airlines Group is known, and was due a third, soon. IAG, which reports earnings on Friday, doesn’t comment on its shareholders.

EU rules cap airline investments, by companies from beyond the bloc, at 49%.

Mr Walsh, described by Al Baker as “the best CEO in the industry,” said in February that the Qatar Air partnership could expand joint purchases.


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