Qatar Airways takes Cathay Pacific stake

Qatar Airways said on November 6 it had agreed to buy 9.6 percent of Hong Kong rival Cathay Pacific Airways.

The airline is acquiring 378,188,000 shares of Cathay Pacific held by Kingboard Chemical, Kingboard Investments and Kingboard Laminates.

Earlier in 2017, Qatar had planned to buy into American Airlines, but the idea was dropped after the U.S. carrier expressed little enthusiasm for the deal.

Qatar Airways and Cathay are both members of the oneworld alliance, as is British Airways and LATAM. While the airlines are partners in the Oneworld alliance, Qatar Airways' move came as a surprise since American had publicly opposed the growth of Middle Eastern airlines in the U.S., saying they've benefited from US$50 billion in illegal aid. Officials at Qatar Airways and Cathay Pacific couldn't immediately be reached for comment outside regular business hours. The two carriers codeshared on each other's services between the two cities, with Cathay also placing its CX airline code on Qatar-operated services beyond Doha to points in Europe, the Middle East and South America and Qatar adding its QR airline code on selected Cathay-operated flights to Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea.

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Cathay is in the midst of the biggest corporate revamp in two decades to help revive earnings after getting squeezed between Middle Eastern carriers such as Emirates Airline and Etihad Airways PJSC on the premium end of travel, and low-priced and mainland Chinese rivals at the other. Cathay is 45 percent owned by Hong Kong conglomerate Swire Pacific. It has announced job cuts and was in talks with pilots over compensation.

Cathay Pacific chief executive Rupert Hogg described Qatar as "one of the world's premier airlines". The sale price is a 3.4% premium to Cathay Pacific's closing price of HK$13.20 on Friday.

Kingboard, an investment holding company, said it would recognise a gain of HK$800 million on the sale which represented its entire stake in the Hong Kong airline.

Qatar would be the third-largest shareholder in Cathay Pacific once the transaction is completed. Kingboard began building its stake last December, calling Cathay a "good investment opportunity".


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