Qatar Air­ways tar­gets other US in­vest­ments af­ter Amer­i­can re­buff

Muscat Daily - - BUSINESS -

Doha, Qatar - Qatar Air­ways hasn’t given up on in­vest­ing in the US af­ter scrap­ping plans to buy a stake in Amer­i­can Air­lines Group Inc amid op­po­si­tion from the Fort Worth, Texas-based com­pany.

“We have other op­por­tu­ni­ties, both in Amer­ica and North Amer­ica, which we will con­sider,” Ak­bar al Baker, the Gulf car­rier’s chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer, said on Wed­nes­day in Doha. “I have some things in mind. The US is an im­por­tant mar­ket for us.”

Qatar Air­ways ended its in­ter­est in Amer­i­can last Wed­nes­day af­ter the US com­pany’s chief, Doug Parker, said he wasn’t keen on hav­ing a Gulf share­holder. While the car­ri­ers are part­ners in the Oneworld al­liance, the ap­proach came as a sur­prise since Amer­i­can had been vo­cal in op­pos­ing the growth of Mideast air­lines over claims that they’ve ben­e­fited from US$50bn in il­le­gal aid.

While Qatar Air­ways ini­tially sug­gested that it walked away be­cause of the ‘lat­est pub­lic dis­clo­sure’ by Amer­i­can, ap­pear­ing to al­lude to a July 28 fi­nan­cial state­ment, Baker said his chief con­cern was the push-back from Parker. The fact that Qatar would have been limited to buying a 4.75 per cent hold­ing in the open mar­ket with­out the back­ing of the US gi­ant was also a deal breaker.

“We would have wanted to take up to ten per cent, for which we would need board ap­proval, and we re­alised we are not go­ing to get it,” he said. “When we are not wel­comed by the CEO of the com­pany, who is of course also a share­holder, why should we then in­vest?”

Baker said his in­ter­est in build­ing a stake was mo­ti­vated by ‘con­fi­dence in the US avi­a­tion in­dus­try’, rather than be­ing aimed at ‘in­flu­enc­ing’ Amer­i­can in the de­bate over Gulf fund­ing, which has seen it join forces with Delta Air Lines Inc and United Con­ti­nen­tal Hold­ings Inc in de­mand­ing that the fed­eral gov­ern­ment limit mar­ket ac­cess for Mid­dle East­ern air­lines.

“We can in­de­pen­dently grow but we feel that it is al­ways in the in­ter­est of any busi­ness to make al­liances and to make in­vest­ments,” he said, adding that should Qatar Air­ways ever sell shares and Amer­i­can want to take a stake, ‘we would sup­port it’.

Ak­bar al Baker

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