DUBAI — One of the Middle East’s biggest carriers, Qatar Airways, has announced an agreement to purchase a 49-per cent stake in Italy’s second largest carrier, Meridiana, days after announcing the purchase of a 10% stake of LATAM Airlines.
Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, Mr. Akbar Al Baker, said: “Qatar Airways continues to expand its business opportunities around the world, increasing travel options for our passengers while also enhancing our investment portfolio.”
Meridiana is the second largest carrier in Italy, with an extensive national and European network, which connects the main Italian airports with Sardinia and provides connectivity with hubs in Europe as well as in the U.S. and Africa. Meridiana’s fleet consists of Boeing 737s, 767s and MD-82s.
The announcement follows a successful and busy week at the Farnborough International Airshow, where Qatar Airways also disclosed that it is to acquire up to 10 per cent of LATAM Airline Group.
Qatar Airways said it seeks to acquire an up to 10-per cent stake of LATAM Airline’s total shares through a capital increase of $613 million through the issuance of new shares at $10 per share.
“We are proud to announce Qatar Airways as a new shareholder of LATAM, reaffirming our bond as existing members of theoneworld alliance. This investment recognises LATAM’s achievements and supports our project for the future. In addition to strengthening our financial position, it will allow us to explore new opportunities for connectivity with Asia and the Middle East, as well as other potential areas of cooperation,” said Mr. Enrique Cueto, CEO of LATAM Airlines Group.
The airline added 13 new destinations this year to fly to more than 150 cities worldwide. It also launched direct flights from its base in Doha to Atlanta, home to the world’s busiest international airport.
Qatar Airways operates a fleet of 186 aircraft, including the new Airbus A350 XWB, out of its hub in the vast new Hamad International Airport in Doha, which is preparing to host soccer’s World Cup in 2022.
Qatar Airways is one of the region’s three biggest carriers, alongside the Middle East’s biggest carrier, the Dubai-based Emirates Airline, and the Abu-Dhabi based Etihad Airways. The three have increasingly challenged Western airlines in long-haul flights.
U.S. carriers _ including American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines _ have criticized the three major Gulf carriers, saying they are aggressively expanding services to the United States while receiving unfair subsidies from their governments. They have pressed Washington to renegotiate treaties that allow Gulf airlines to fly to the U.S.
Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways deny they are subsidized.