Qatar Airways agrees 49 per cent Meridiana stake purchase

Qatar Airways has continued its acquisition spree by signing an agreement to buy a 49 per cent stake in Italian airline Meridiana.

The agreement is “subject to the fulfilment of certain conditions, before the closing which is planned for early October”, the airline said in a statement.

In June, negotiations between Qatar Airways and Meridiana stalled over the conditions of the labour unions. As the second largest airline in Italy, Meridiana has an extensive domestic network and provides connectivity with hubs in Europe along with the United States and Africa. Its fleet consists of Boeing 737s, 767s and MD-82s.

In June, Qatar Airways said it has aggressive plans for the Italian airline. “You will see when Qatar Airways becomes an investor what their [Meridiana’s] size will become,” chief executive Akbar Al Baker said during the International Air Transport Association meeting in Dublin.

“You don’t expect me to be a substantial shareholder and fly MD-80s,” Mr Al Baker said, referring to the 30-year-old McDonnell Douglas MD-80 series aircraft the Italian carrier now operates.

Earlier this week, Qatar Airways announced the acquisition of a 10 per cent stake of Latam Airline, South America’s biggest airline. The airline also holds a 15 per cent stake in IAG Group, the parent company of British Airways and the Spanish carrier Iberia.

Qatar Airways is the second of the big three Gulf carriers to show interest in an Italian airline. Etihad Airways acquired a 49 per cent stake in Alitalia, Italy’s national airline, in 2014.

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