For the second time in less than a month, Qatar Airways Ltd. increased its stake in IAG SA, an airline holding group with a portfolio that includes British Airways, Iberia Airways and other prominent airlines.
Qatar Airways’ move to bump its stake to 15.1 percent comes on the heels of a recent jump from 9.99 percent to 12 percent just last month. Qatar officials said that it may further increase its stake to 49 percent, which is the maximum limit on foreign-ownership currently imposed by European Union regulators.
Akbar Al Baker, CEO of Qatar Airways, said the deal is part of the airline’s “westbound strategy” to branch out of the Middle East and Asia, and into Europe and the Americas. “It gives us a huge benefit from a financial, commercial and strategic perspective,” Al Baker added.
State-owned Qatar Airways took its first 9.99 percent stake in IAG in January 2015, at a time when legacy carriers in the United States and Europe were complaining that Gulf carriers were receiving unfair government subsidies which enabled their rapid growth and expansion.
As Qatar’s ownership in IAG increases, additional cargo handling synergies are also expected. IAG exited the freighter business in 2014, while Qatar Airways Cargo continues to operate a robust freighter fleet that includes eight A330-200Fs and nine 777Fs. IAG Cargo has, in turn, secured block-space on various QA operated routes since September 2014.