Qatar Airways Buys Into Yet Another Airline

Reuters

The 9.6 percent stake, equivalent to 378,188,000 shares of the Asian carrier, was purchased by Qatar Airways for HK$15.6 billion, or $662 million.

One of the reasons the Qatari investment is being seen in poor light is the fact that the Arab nation has been accused by several of its neighbors of allegedly supporting terrorism groups like ISIS and Al-Qaeda, and of destabilizing the Gulf region.

For Cathay Pacific, the Qatar Airways stake will give it a third strategic shareholder behind Swire Pacific Ltd and Air China Ltd and under the terms of the Cathay deal, Qatar Airways will buy about 378.2mn shares.

Qatar Airways is the Arab state's flag carrier. Earlier this year it made a bid to buy 10 percent in American Airlines, the United States' largest carrier, but the deal went sour and Qatari officials eventually said that "it no longer met" Qatar Airways' objective.

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It was rebuffed by American Airlines earlier this year. "Cathay Pacific is a fellow Oneworld member and is one of the strongest airlines in the world, respected throughout the industry and with massive potential for the future".

Cathay Pacific has been suffering from intense competition and economic slowdown in China, both of which have been attributed to the carrier's HK$2.05 billion loss in the first half of the year, a dramatic decline when compared to the same time last year, which saw the carrier profit HK$353 million.

Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, His Excellency Mr Akbar Al Baker, said: "Qatar Airways is very pleased to complete its financial investment in Cathay Pacific".

The stock closed 1.5% lower, while the broader market was flat.

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"This may not necessarily be favourable for Cathay as it is facing operating challenges and undergoing transformation".

Behind the Cathay Pacific stake is the battle for better access to China, which is expected to become the world's biggest aviation market within a decade.

At the same time, Cathay, while still Asia's biggest global airline, has struggled to make the most of its Chinese status, finding itself squeezed by mainland carriers that boast a lower cost base and increasingly offer direct US and European flights, cutting out the need for people to go via Hong Kong.

Air China said yesterday that it viewed Qatar Airways' purchase of the Cathay stake "positively" and that it hoped the shareholders could work together to find synergies.

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Kingboard Chemical said the group, which will cease to hold any Cathay Pacific shares following the transaction, will recognize a gain of about HK$800 million from the sale in its annual results.

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