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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 December 2018

Qatar Airways link as Italian airline Meridiana seeks investment from partner

Meridiana reportedly in advanced talks with Qatar Airways to sell a 49 per cent stake to the Arabian Gulf carrier.
A Qatar Airways Boeing 787 Dreamliner lands at Le Bourget airport near Paris. Reuters
A Qatar Airways Boeing 787 Dreamliner lands at Le Bourget airport near Paris. Reuters

Meridiana management and Italian government officials have met to discuss the possibility of finding an “industry partner” to invest in the carrier, amid speculation that Qatar Airways could take a stake.

“Today [Tuesday] Meridiana will meet the Italian government in order to discuss the possible perspectives for the airline’s future,” Meridiana said. “Meridiana and its shareholder agreed with the government to consider a range of alliances and a possible industrial partnership.”

The Italian newspaper Repubblica reported on Monday that Meridiana was in advanced talks with Qatar Airways to sell a 49 per cent stake to the Arabian Gulf carrier.

The Italian paper added that the deal could be done via International Airlines Group (IAG) – the owner of British Airways and Iberia – in which Qatar Airways holds a near 10 per cent stake. However, any agreement would need the approval of labour unions in Italy, according to ­Repubblica.

Rules prevent a foreign carrier taking a stake larger than 49 per cent. John Strickland, the director of London’s JLS Consulting, said that such an acquisition would benefit Qatar Airways.

“A deal could strengthen ­Qatar’s access to the large Italian market and provide additional feed on to the carrier’s Doha services,” he said. A Qatar Airways spokeswoman said: “We don’t comment on rumours or speculation.”

In 2014, Etihad Airways took a 49 per cent stake in Italy’s flagship carrier Alitalia in a €1.76 billion (Dh7.05bn)deal.

Meridiana was established in 1963 with the aim of promoting tourism in the Italian island Sardinia. It was delisted from the stock exchange in May 2013. The airline owns a fleet of 20 aircraft and carries 4 million passengers annually.

selgazzar@thenational.ae

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