In a move with possible long-haul airfreight implications for both carriers, Qatar Airways has purchased a 9.99 percent share of International Airlines Group (IAG), the parent company of Iberia and British Airways.
The stake, worth about £1.15 billion (US$1.7 billion), strengthens a bond between the two carriers that began when Qatar joined the 30-member oneworld alliance in 2013, as the first Gulf-based carrier to join a global code-sharing organization. Since last May, under a limited partnership, Qatar Airways has operated 777 freighter service several times a week between London and Hong Kong, carrying airfreight for fellow oneworld member British Airways.
By investing directly in IAG, Qatar may be able to gain easier trans-Atlantic access to North American markets via BA’s well-established routes, and also to various Latin American destinations through Iberia. In turn, BA can position itself to establish routes via Qatar’s network in the Middle East, India and Southeast Asia.
Doha-based Qatar Airways is subject to European Union restrictions forbidding ownership stakes in any EU company that are higher than 49.9 percent by non-EU citizens. However, the 9.99 percent stake just purchased makes Qatar the largest single shareholder in IAG.
“Both IAG and Qatar Airways have a close relationship already as part of the oneworld alliance and IAG welcomes Qatar Airways’ statement that it would look to strengthen existing commercial ties,” read a statement from Qatar Airways after the announcement. “Qatar Airways may consider increasing its stake further over time although this is not currently intended to exceed 9.99 percent.”