DUBAI Dec 20 Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways is
reviewing its strategy of investing in European airlines and is
seeking an exit in a shake-up that could lead to the departure
of CEO James Hogan, company and industry sources told Reuters on
Etihad saw a strategy to take equity stakes in carriers like
Air Berlin, Alitalia and Air Serbia as a way to expand its
European network but losses have mounted with Air Berlin and
Alitalia failing to turn a profit.
Etihad announced on Sunday it was cutting jobs, with local
rival Emirates following a day later in reviewing its workforce
as overcapacity and a stronger dollar squeeze earnings.
Hogan's expected departure, which could come within the next
three months according to the sources, and the Etihad
restructuring was first reported by German daily Handelsblatt,
which cited several sources as saying Etihad wanted to start
unwinding its European investments in January.
"It is our long-standing policy never to comment on rumour
or speculation," Etihad said in a statement.
Etihad last week finalised a deal for Air Berlin,
in which it owns a 29 percent stake, to lease 38 crewed planes
to Lufthansa. It is also buying Air Berlin's Niki unit
and placing it into a new leisure airline joint venture with
tour operator TUI.
The measures will halve Air Berlin's fleet, leaving it with
just 75 planes focused on long-haul flying from Berlin and
Alitalia is considering job cuts and grounding planes, and
Italian media have previously suggested that Lufthansa could
become an investor in the struggling carrier, something that
both have denied.
(Reporting by Alexander Cornwell in Dubai, Stanley Carvalho in
Abu Dhabi, Victoria Bryan in Berlin; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)