Qatar buys out former PM to secure control of national airline

DUBAI: Qatar Airways’ chief executive officer said Monday that the airline was now fully government-owned after the country’s sovereign fund bought a 50-percent stake from Qatar’s former prime minister and other shareholders.

“We became fully government owned in July last year,” Akbar al-Baker told reporters in Dubai.

Baker said half of the airline had previously been owned by Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, who was also the former foreign minister, and several other shareholders.

Baker declined to comment on the amount paid for the purchase of the stake.

A change in Qatar’s leadership may be partly responsible for the Qatar Airways buyback. Last June, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamid al-Thani took over from his father as emir.

He has replaced some senior economic officials, and in a policy speech last November said he was particularly keen to prevent high inflation and corruption.

A government source told Reuters Monday that Qatar wanted members of the ruling family to have fewer direct stakes in local business interests.

“There are changes happening. Qatar wants to have a fair and competitive business environment for everyone,” the source said.

Until last year, Sheikh Hamid was chief executive of the sovereign Qatar Investment Authority fund, and was regarded as the driving force behind QIA’s emergence as one of the most sought-after investors in the world.

Baker said after the ownership change the airline now plans to reveal its 2013 financial profits before the third quarter of the year.

He also said he was interested in acquiring a stake in India’s IndiGo airline and added that Qatar Airways may also look into buying additional Airbus A380 planes in the future.

IndiGo declined to comment on Baker’s remarks.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on May 06, 2014, on page 5.




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