|Qatar Airways seeking purchases after rejecting Jat, Alitalia and Olympic|
The CEO of Qatar Airways, Akbar Al Baker, says the airline is again pursuing acquisitions in foreign carriers, admitting it was offered stakes in both Serbia’s Jat Airways and Greece’s Olympic Airlines. The recent statement has fuelled speculation that the Qatari carrier could look into purchasing a minority stake in an airline in the region and follow the example of its Middle Eastern rival Etihad Airways. Mr. Al Baker says the airline is “actively discussing opportunities” with other passenger carriers. “When we see that there are strong synergies between the two carriers we are open to investment”, Mr. Al Baker says.
The CEO has disclosed that Qatar Airways was offered the unprofitable Olympic Airlines, Air Seychelles and “even Air Serbia”, while Alitalia, which has suffered years of losses, has indicated its availability “several times over the past five years”. Alitalia is in the final stages of investment talks with Etihad Airways, which has also taken stakes in Air Serbia and Air Seychelles. “We were offered umpteen airlines that today have either been acquired or are in the process”, Mr. Al Baker said. "Qatar Airways will not be rushed into taking investments in airlines in bits and pieces”, he said, adding that “each airline in our region has a different strategy. We want to make sure that we don’t create a burden on us. We want airlines that we acquire to be complimentary to us, we don’t want to get involved in fixing other people’s problems”.
The statements come in the same year that all the national carriers of the former Yugoslavia, with exception to Air Serbia, are in search of a strategic partner. Adria Airways will begin its privatisation process following a European Commission ruling in June over alleged state aid. Croatia Airlines is also set to resume its privatisation process this summer, while the Montenegrin government has adopted plans to sell its carrier this year as well. The Federation government of Bosnia and Herzegovina has been searching for a strategic partner for B&H Airlines ever since Turkish Airlines withdrew from the carrier’s ownership structure.
Middle Eastern airlines have shown interest in EX-YU carrier on several occasions. In 2008 Royal Jordanian Airlines placed a bid to purchase a 49% stake in B&H Airlines while Etihad successfully acquired Jat Airways. Furthermore, the Emirati carrier bought tender documentation for the purchase of a minority stake in Montenegro Airlines in 2012 but never made an offer. Qatar Airways is currently in the process of setting up an offshoot, Al Maha Airways, in Saudi Arabia this November following the Kingdom’s relaxation of its protectionist policies in the aviation sector. Qatar Airways, a Oneworld alliance member, operates eleven weekly flights from Doha to the former Yugoslavia with daily services to Zagreb (via Budapest) and four weekly flights to Belgrade (via Ankara).