Qatar Airways has boosted its stake in the International Airlines Group (IAG), owner of British Airways and Iberia, to nearly 12%.
Qatar Air has lifted its holding from the 9.99% bought in January last year, Qatar’s chief executive Akbar Al Baker told reporters at the Arabian Travel Market in Dubai.
He described IAG as “the most successful airline today”. Al Baker has stressed that Qatar is interested only in buying into “successful” carriers. That criterion ruled out any investment in Virgin Australia, he told the Australian newspaper later, saying it was “good” for Air New Zealand to sell its stake in the Australian airline but emphasising that Qatar had no interest in buying in.
Qatar’s rival Etihad is already a major shareholder in Virgin Australia, with 25.1% of the shares.
A report in Bloomberg said Qatar’s move to boost its holding in IAG would strengthen ties built around the access BA provides to North America via London and would bolster Qatar’s Asian network.
Shares of IAG climed after the announcement. As well as BA and Iberia, IAG owns Vueling of Spain and Ireland’s Aer Lingus.
Bloomberg says IAG is emerging as Europe’s most profitable airline business while rivals Air France-KLM and Lufthansa are tussling with with unions over cost cuts.
IAG’s operating profit climbed nearly 70% to 2.34 billion euros (USD 2.6 billion) in 2015. The company forecasts a similar gain this year.
Written by Peter Needham