Qatar Airways In Talks To Buy Meridiana

April 25, 2016

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Qatar Airways is in advanced negotiations to buy a 49 percent stake in Italian airline Meridiana, but a deal is dependent on restructuring and job cuts.

The Middle East carrier is also considering taking a 25-49 percent stake in Morocco's Royal Air Maroc, although it was focused on the possible Meridiana acquisition for now, said chief executive Akbar Al Baker.

Qatar Airways holds a 10 percent stake in British Airways parent IAG and has been open to making further investments to help expand its reach.

Meridiana, which offers flights to and from the island of Sardinia and other destinations in Italy and abroad, is under a government-sponsored restructuring plan to help turn it round.

"Partnering with Meridiana would only make Meridiana prosper, grow and actually increase the working population of Meridiana," Al Baker told reporters.

"But for the initial period there will be some pain on the part of employees," he added.

He did not comment on the potential cost of a stake in Meridiana which is owned by the Aga Khan, a tycoon and spiritual leader of the Ismaili Muslims.

Al Baker said Qatar was talking to both the staff and the unions about a deal, adding that if it reached an "amicable settlement" on the restructuring of the company it would partner with the airline.

"We have to decide either yes or no by the end of June," he said.

Baker said Qatar's resources were already stretched by one potential acquisition, so the airline would wait for the Meridiana deal to conclude before examining Royal Air Maroc.

Talks had yet to start between Qatar Airways and Royal Air Maroc, but "there is an understanding between the two governments that Royal Air Maroc needs help and Qatar Airways' help would be very welcome," said Al Baker.

(Reuters)