|Slovenian President proposes for Qatar to acquire Adria|
The Slovenian President Borut Pahor has urged Qatar Airways to buy a share in its national carrier Adria Airways, which is up for privatisation this year. The Slovenian State Secretary at the Ministry for Economic Development and Technology, Ales Cantarutti, says the proposal was made during the President’s meeting with the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, in Doha last Thursday. “During talks with the Emir, the idea was raised for Qatar to invest in Adria Airways”, Mr. Cantarutti says. Citing Etihad Airways’ 49% stake in Air Serbia, the State Secretary notes, “I don’t see why Qatar Airways would not do the same. We want Qatar Airways to invest in Adria in line with European Union legislation. As a result, there are some limitations to ownership”.
Qatar Airways recently confirmed it was mulling a 20% stake in Alisarda Holding, which owns Italian airlines Meridiana, Meridiana fly and Air Italy. The investment would allow Qatar to better position itself against its regional rival Etihad which recently acquired a 49% stake in Alitalia. Mr. Cantarutti believes Qatar will give “serious consideration” to Slovenia’s proposal to invest in Adria. “Mergers and partnerships are necessary in the airline business”, Mr. Cantarutti says. Last week the Slovenian government agreed to sell up to 91.6% in Adria. Under European Union regulations, only a company from inside the block is able to buy a majority share in another EU-based business.
Slovenia’s former President, Danilo Turk, initially proposed for Qatar Airways to invest in Adria back in 2009. A year later the CEO of the Qatari carrier, Akbar Al Baker, ruled out a possible acquisition following talks with Adria’s management, noting that Qatar will instead focus on organic growth. However, last year, Mr. Baker said the airline is again pursuing acquisitions in foreign airlines. “When we see that there are strong synergies between the two carriers we are open to investment”, the CEO said. He added, “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”. Adria Airways’ CEO, Mark Anžur, recently said it would be best to offer the carrier to small airlines or financial investors, as big European players have "problems of their own". Mr. Anžur added, “One problem is that a company from outside of the Union can only take a 49% stake. Our choices are limited, so in my opinion we can realistically expect interest from Europe”.
Middle Eastern airlines have shown interest in EX-YU carriers 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 and transformed it into Air Serbia. Furthermore, the Emirati national carrier sought tender documentation for the purchase of a minority stake in Montenegro Airlines in 2012 but never placed a final offer.