Qatar Airways targets other US investments after American rebuff
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