Etihad would be interested in government's Aer Lingus stake

Etihad Airways. (AFP)

ABU DHABI: Etihad Airways would consider buying the Irish government's 25 percent stake in Aer Lingus but so far has not been approached with an offer, the Gulf carrier's chief executive said on Tuesday.

"If the Irish government approached us to look at the stake, then we would do so. But they have still not approached us," James Hogan said on the sidelines of a conference in Abu Dhabi.

He declined to comment on Ryanair's bid to take over Aer Lingus, or on whether Etihad would sell its current 3 percent stake in Aer Lingus.

Etihad has been on an aggressive expansion drive and has taken minority stakes in Aer Lingus, Air Berlin and Virgin Australia. Hogan said earlier this year that Etihad would look at India and Asian markets for new opportunities.

The airline has been approached by all Indian carriers about the possibility of buying a stake, Hogan said on Tuesday, adding that Etihad was still evaluating the impact of the new Foreign Direct Investment laws. India opened up its airline industry to foreign investment last month.

Asked if Etihad would be looking for minority stakes, he said: "Everything we do will be minority stakes. What we don't want to do is to take control."

He added that the carrier had no interest in Portugal's TAP, which is up for sale. "We are codeshare partners with TAP. However strategically, we do not see any value in investing in TAP."

Gulf carriers have entered a series of codeshares and alliances this year, as they look to expand their networks. Qatar Airways became the first major Gulf carrier to join the oneworld alliance earlier this month; Etihad has signed a codeshare deal with Air France-KLM, a move that some analysts expected would result in the carrier becoming part of the SkyTeam alliance.

However, Hogan denied any such plans.

"We have no intention of joining SkyTeam," he said.





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