Qatar Airways CEO Says Interested in Indian Carrier Stake

Qatar Airways Ltd., the Middle East’s second-largest carrier, is interested in purchasing a stake in an Indian airline, Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker said.

“India is a huge market, India is a potentially lucrative market,” Al Baker told reporters today in Doha. “Qatar Airways will be interested once we are sure the regulations and the laws are properly liberalized.”

The CEO said he’s not studying any specific purchase in India, where changes to rules curbing foreign direct investment from airlines have spurred interest in the market.

Gulf carriers including Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways are looking to expand into the Indian market after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government in September allowed foreign airlines to own as much as 49 percent of India’s carriers as part of a push to attract investment and boost growth. The move opens up a possible new source of funding for Kingfisher Airlines Ltd. and other operators struggling to translate the country’s rising travel demand into earnings.

Al Baker denied press reports that the Qatari airline is looking to buy a stake in Alitalia SpA, adding that he had not been approached by the Rome-based airline.

Al Baker confirmed that Qatar Airways sold its 35 percent stake in Luxembourg’s Cargolux Airlines International SA. Luxembourg’s government announced last month that it bought Qatar Airways’ 35 percent stake in Cargolux for $117.5 million.

Doha’s new airport, currently under construction, will receive its first passengers on April 1 and is expected to be fully open to all airlines in the second half, Al Baker said.

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