Etihad eyes greater investment in Aer Lingus

Washington DC
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Etihad Airways is considering taking a larger stake in Irish carrier Aer Lingus even as it continues to weigh its options with India's Jet Airways.

Chief executive James Hogan says the carrier is waiting for the final report on the UK Office of Fair Trading's probe of Ryanair's 29.8% shareholding in Aer Lingus before the UAE flag carrier makes its own decision. The UK office is expected to issue a preliminary decision in May and a final report in July.

"At that point in time we may review our investment in Aer Lingus," Hogan says.

Etihad acquired a 2.987% stake in Aer Lingus last May and has since been working with the carrier to streamline its costs and operations.

"We are working very closely with Aer Lingus behind the scenes on purchasing and a whole range of cost efficiency areas," Hogan says.

Etihad's role has remained limited, however, as Ryanair attempted a surprise take-over bid of Aer Lingus, which was recently blocked by Europe's Competitiveness Commission. Ryanair is awaiting the results of its appeal of the commission's ruling.

Meanwhile, Etihad continues a prolonged series of talks over making an investment in Jet Airways.

"We've been reviewing as we've said for quite some time, is this the right partnership, do the rules of engagement meet the requirements for our shareholders and our board?" Hogan says. "And we're still working through that process."

Only three weeks ago, Hogan had predicted that it would be ready to make a decision on an investment in Jet Airways "in the coming weeks".

Etihad also has a 29% stake in Air Berlin, a 40% interest in Air Seychelles and a 10% shareholding in Virgin Australia.