Qatar Airways Wants Bigger IAG Stake to Deepen European Ties

Qatar Airways Ltd. would like to eventually increase its stake in British Airways parent IAG SA to help build better access to the Americas, Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker said today.

The second-biggest Gulf carrier bought a stake just shy of 10 percent, valued at 1.15 billion euros ($1.3 billion), in January, and Al Baker says he views London-based IAG and its management as sufficiently attractive for further investment.

“We would like to increase our stake,” the CEO told journalists at a briefing at the ITB tourism fair in Berlin. “We will consider when the time comes.”

Qatar Air made the investment to become IAG’s largest shareholder after drawing increasingly close to the European group on joining its Oneworld Alliance in 2013. Al Baker said he’s studying investments in carriers in other regions, though only where companies are in good shape and don’t need rescuing.

Shares of IAG, as International Consolidated Airlines Group SA is known, rose as much as 10 pence, or 1.8 percent, to 566 pence and were trading 1.7 percent higher as of 3:52 p.m. in London. Doha-based Qatar Airways isn’t publicly listed.

With the European Union’s laws allow foreign investors to own no more than 49 percent of its carriers, Al Baker said in an interview that the scope for a bigger holding may be limited.

Boeing Deal

Even with the current stake, Al Baker said he’s aiming to pursue joint negotiations on the purchase of airliners, spare parts and services. Qatar’s order for Boeing Co. 777X planes in 2013 involved a joint approach with Dubai-based Emirates that allowed better pricing than separate contracts, he said.

“Qatar wants to invest in airlines where it can get synergies, and benefit from joint purchases of aeroplanes, ground-handling and repairs,” Al Baker said.

The executive declined to say whether he supports IAG CEO Willie Walsh’s plan to buy Aer Lingus Plc, an approach that requires the assent of the Irish government and Ryanair Holdings Plc, the target company’s two biggest investors.

“As a shareholder, I’d always support any growth in our business, but I’d not like to comment specifically on this situation as we’re not involved,” he said.

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