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Qatar looking to expand investments in other airlines

Qatar Airways is aiming to increase its near-10% shareholding in European airline group IAG and invest in other carriers too, chief executive Akbar Al Baker confirms.

"We would like to increase our stake in IAG," he said at the ITB travel trade show in Berlin yesterday. However, it remains unclear when that might happen, with Al Baker saying only: "We will consider it when the time comes."

Expanding the investment will depend on determining "where IAG can add value to Qatar" and vice versa, Al Baker says. Nevertheless, Qatar plans to make further investments in airlines and other activities – such as hotels – to have alternative sources of income. "We will not stop at [existing] acquisitions, and we will look at other airlines," he says.

In an apparent reference to neighbouring Etihad Airways, however, Al Baker says Qatar will not invest in "sick airlines" to "help fix" their businesses, but instead will focus exclusively on "successful" carriers.

Abu Dhabi's Etihad has taken shareholdings in several loss-making airlines – such as Air Berlin, Alitalia and Swiss turboprop operator Darwin Airline – and supported restructuring programmes at those carriers with significant funding in an effort to grow its own network through those of partners.

Qatar intends to invest in profitable airlines – or "goldsmiths", to use Al Baker's term – but will not throw money at "scrap dealers". He describes IAG as the industry's "best-run airline conglomerate".

In 2011, Qatar acquired a 35% stake in Cargolux. But, just a little more than a year later, it sold its shares in the Luxembourg-based freight operator – which has been embroiled in union disputes – back to the nation's government.

Last month, IAG chief executive Willie Walsh said the group was evaluating expansion of its partnership with Qatar to include areas such as joint procurement of aircraft and maintenance services.

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