Could Etihad be eyeing a stake in an EX-YU airline?
The national carrier of the United Arab Emirates, Etihad Airways, is looking at acquiring shares in airlines, with a lot of opportunity to do so within the former Yugoslavia. Two years ago the airline purchased tender documentation for a 30% stake in Montenegro Airlines. In the end it did not put in an offer. This year, Adria Airways and B&H Airlines are up for sale and looking for strategic partners. While it is believed that Buraq Air from Libya and a regional European airline are eyeing a 49% stake in B&H, the Federation government of Bosnia and Herzegovina recently added more confusion over the potential investor by revealing that a Middle Eastern carrier is also in the running for a minority stake.
"We see further equity investments only if it's the right opportunity, right partner, right market and right price", James Hogan, Etihad's CEO said at an aviation conference in Abu Dhabi on Sunday. Etihad has been on an acquisition drive in recent months, taking minority equity stakes in Virgin Australia (10%) and Aer Lingus (3%), as well as raising its shareholding in Air Berlin (29%) and Air Seychelles (40%). Any future acquisitions would follow the same theme, with Etihad not interested in majority ownership, Hogan said. "Through partners, we stretch our reach and it gives us the ability to compete with our immediate neighbours", he added, in a reference to major rivals Emirates and Qatar Airways.
Etihad Airways does not operate flights to the former Yugoslavia. It has so far not expanded into Eastern Europe, with services to Minsk and Moscow being the only exceptions. Etihad Airways recently opened its office for the Western Balkans in Belgrade. The office covers Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia and Albania. The Emirati carrier also boasts a code share agreement with Olympic Airways on its flights from Athens to Belgrade and has an interline agreement with Jat Airways. Etihad's codeshares have generated over $280 million this year, and account for 20% of the airline's total revenue, which will grow to $5 billion this year.