Qatar Airways Targets Acquisition In Europe

January 19, 2012

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Qatar Airways is considering more investment in Europe and has identified an acquisition target, the Gulf carrier's CEO Akbar Al Baker said on Thursday, while declining to comment about Spanish airline Spanair.

There has been speculation Qatar Airways may be after a stake in Spanair whose Scandinavian partners said in November it was in talks with a possible industry partner.

"I cannot talk about that," said Baker, when asked about Spanair at the Bahrain Air Show. "We need to look at every business opportunity we get... we have a strategy going forward. I want to make sure that Qatar Airways grows in a very sustained environment."

Gulf carriers, backed by sovereign funds from the oil-producing states, have been eyeing investment in Europe where cash-strapped companies have been looking for external funds.

Qatar Airways bought a 35 percent stake in freight carrier Cargolux last year.

Etihad Airways, Abu Dhabi's flagship carrier, raised its stake in Air Berlin to nearly 30 percent from just under 3 percent in December, paying EUR€73 million (USD$94 million) and lending the carrier USD$255 million.

Speaking about last week's partial cancellation of Airbus A350-1000 aircraft by Etihad Airways -- the rival Gulf carrier cut its order for the A350-1000 to 19 from 25, Baker said it was premature to cancel orders.

"Qatar Airways has confidence in Airbus making a good airplane (A350-100), though we have already voiced our concern that it does not meet the performance undertaking given to us. They have agreed to make changes... so, we have to give them time."

Qatar Airways is the biggest customer for the A350-1000.