Qatar Airways increases stake in IAG to 20%

Qatar Airways Group CEO Akbar Al Bakar

By Kurt Hofmann/ Air Transport World

Gulf carrier Qatar Airways has increased its stake in International Airlines Group (IAG) from 15.67% to 20.01%, on what it called an attractive buying opportunity, the company announced on 1st August, Qatar said it owned the bigger stake in IAG as of 28th July.

IAG is the parent company of British Airways (BA), Irish flag carrier Aer Lingus, Madrid-based Iberia and Spanish low-cost carrier Vueling. Doha-based Qatar originally acquired a 9.99% stake in IAG in January 2015. It increased that stake to just under 12% in April and to 15.01% in May.

IAG CEO Willie Walsh told ATW in early June that Qatar saw IAG as a “good financial investment.” Like IAG carriers BA and Iberia, Qatar is a member of Oneworld. “The recent market valuation of one of the world’s leading airline groups has provided what we believe is an attractive opportunity to increase our shareholding in IAG,” Qatar Airways Group CEO  Akbar Al Bakar said in a statement on 1st August. “We maintain our significant support of IAG’s strategy and [its] management teams, and do not plan further investment increases as long as there is no fundamental change in the current situation,” Al Baker added.

Under current rules, foreign investors cannot own more than 49% of a European airline. The pound sterling and the euro saw sharp declines in June and July after the UK’s Brexit referendum voted to leave the European Union. Qatar said while its interest was purely financial, the investment reflected the strength of the commercial and strategic ties between the companies. The Oneworld member has been expanding its global reach in recent months, agreeing in July to acquire up to 10% in South America’s LATAM Airlines Group. On July 14, Qatar reached an agreement to take a 49% stake in Italian carrier Meridiana. Al Baker recently confirmed his interest to ATW in a strategic joint business partnership in Africa’s Royal Air Maroc (RAM), which was unveiled in May 2015.