- Holding increase is second disclosed in less than three weeks
- Company may raise ownership further within EU regulatory limit
Qatar Airways Ltd. increased its stake in British Airways owner IAG SA for the second time in less than three weeks, as the Persian Gulf carrier seeks to benefit from closer ties with its European partner.
The move lifts Qatar Airways’ holding in IAG to 15 percent from a stake of close to 12 percent, which the Doha-based airline revealed last month. After an initial investment in January last year to acquire a 9.99 percent share, a further increase within the European Union regulation that limits foreign ownership of airlines to 49 percent may be considered, state-owned Qatar Airways said in a statement Tuesday.
The investment bolsters the airline’s “westbound strategy” by providing access to IAG’s trans-Atlantic network and leading positions at hubs in London and Madrid, said Akbar Al Baker, chief executive officer of Qatar Airways. It also enables the airline to take more advantage of IAG’s acquisition of Irish carrier Aer Lingus.
“It gives us a huge benefit from a financial, commercial and strategic perspective,” Al Baker said at a press conference in Atlanta.
Qatar Airways first drew closer to IAG after joining its Oneworld alliance in 2013, aided by the backing of the London-based company’s CEO Willie Walsh at a time when other European carriers were openly hostile to the expansion of Gulf rivals.
IAG rose 1.5 percent to 518.50 pence at the close in London, valuing Qatar Airways’ holding at about 1.58 billion pounds ($2.29 billion).