Qatar Airways has become the biggest shareholder in IAG, the owner of British Airways and Iberia.
The Arab carrier bought 9.99% of IAG for a reported £ 1.15 billion (USD 1.73 billion. Qatar already owns 20% of Heathrow and has a seat on the board of the airport.
Qatar Airways already has a working relationship with BA as it is a member of the oneworld alliance.
It seems that the share buying was carried out in a very successful undercover operation. But how much did BA know about it?
IAG chief executive Willie Walsh welcomed the move. “We will talk to them about what opportunities exist to work more closely together and further IAG’s ambitions,” he said in a statement.
“IAG represents an excellent opportunity to further develop our Westwards strategy. Having joined the oneworld alliance it makes sense for us to work more closely together in the near term and we look forward to forging a long-term relationship,” said His Excellency Mr. Akbar Al Baker, Group Chief Executive of Qatar Airways.
Conflict of interest
IAG already controls more than half of all the take-off and landing slots at Heathrow. And they are currently trying to buy the Irish airline, Aer Lingus, meaning the group would get even more Heathrow slots. Indeed there is speculation that the Aer Lingus slots would be passed on to Qatar Airways.
Qatar owns 20% of Heathrow and the CEO, Mr Al-Baker, has a seat on the board of the airport. The airline currently has 6 daily flights between Heathrow and Doha.
The move effectively give BA a seat on the board of Heathrow.
As well as the dominance at Heathrow there are concerns about what the share purchase means as part of the UK Airports Commission debate.
The Qatar CEO has previously been quoted as wanting Heathrow to operate 24 hours a day and that people living under the flight path should stop fussing over the issue.
The Daily Mail ran an article raising questions about the buy on security concerns. The state of Qatar has repeatedly been accused of having links with terrorist organisations including Islamic State and Al Qaeda. Qatar refutes these allegations.
Qatar UK buys
Qatar owns a substantial number of major buildings in London including The Shard, Harrods, One Hyde Park, Canary Wharf and Chelsea Barracks.
Qatar Airways (QR)