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Luxembourg Buys Qatar Air’s Cargolux Stake After Strategy Spat

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Dec. 19 (Bloomberg) -- Luxembourg’s government agreed to buy the 35 percent stake in Cargolux Airlines International SA purchased by Qatar Airways Ltd. only last year following a dispute over strategy at Europe’s biggest freight-only airline.

Infrastructure Minister Claude Wiseler brokered a deal to pay $117.5 million for the holding during a visit to Doha last weekend, the government said in a statement. While contractual details have yet to be sealed, a transaction should be completed by the end of this year, spokeswoman Danielle Frank said today.

Cargolux Chairman Albert Wildgen stepped down on Nov. 30 after Qatar Airways Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker made what the European company termed a series of demands that were difficult to accept. The No. 2 Gulf carrier bought its stake as part of a push to become a major freight operator by 2015.

Qatar Air’s co-shareholders in Cargolux, which employs 1,500 people, are state-backed Luxembourg passenger carrier Luxair SA and local banks Societe Nationale de Credit et d’Investissement and Banque et Caisse d’Epargne de l’Etat.

Cargolux, the first operator of Boeing Co.’s 747-8 freighter, lost $18 million in 2011 as capacity exceeded demand, and has been unprofitable in three of the past four years.

The Luxembourg carrier had said on Nov. 19 that Qatar Air planned to exit its stake, and that interim CEO Richard Forson had the backing of remaining stakeholders to see through a cost-cutting plan after the repudiation of an existing labor deal.

Qatar Airways spokesman Updesh Kapur said he couldn’t immediately comment.

To contact the reporters on this story: Robert Wall in London at rwall6@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chad Thomas at cthomas16@bloomberg.net; Benedikt Kammel at bkammel@bloomberg.net

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