FARNBOROUGH, England (Reuters) - Qatar Airways is considering sponsoring a English Premier League soccer club, having received two recent approaches to do so, its chief executive said on Tuesday.
“Two English teams have approached us. We told them that we would consider it ... but we are not yet ready to do it,” Akbar Al Baker said at the Farnborough Airshow.
He said the approaches had come from clubs looking to build new stadia and that Qatar Airways favored a deal involving stadium naming rights - similar to Arsenal’s deal with Dubai-based Emirates Airline.
“If we do it we would like to do it in a big way,” he said.
English soccer clubs Liverpool and Tottenham are known to be considering building new stadia.
Al Baker also said the carrier would not pursue plans to go public until conditions in the aviation industry and global economy improve.
“We still have plans to go public but we have delayed it due to the fact that the aviation industry and the world economy is in turmoil,” he said.
“It would be a very stupid move to go public at a time when people are controlling their purse strings,” he said, adding the company wants to list in Qatar, Europe and the Far East.
Al Baker also ruled out investing in other airlines, including buying Spanish lender Bankia’s 12 percent stake in IAG, and said the carrier would instead focus on making codesharing deals with other airlines.
Qatar Airways expects to receive its first Airbus A380 in January 2014 but has demanded an upgraded version that does not have wing faults that require modifications later. It has 10 A380s on order.
The European planemaker is currently undertaking permanent repair work to address wing cracks on the superjumbo, which were discovered earlier this year.
“We don’t want a fixed wing, we want a newly designed wing and I have made this very clear to Airbus ... It’s not a huge engineering problem it is just using the correct material in the wing,” the airline boss said.
Al Baker, who is known for springing surprises and has often been outspoken about both Airbus and Boeing, also said Qatar Airways “still has an interest” in Bombardier’s CSeries.
Al Baker said he would decide whether to press ahead with a deal for Airbus’ A350-1000 mini-jumbo in the next year once the planemaker had a final design to offer it.
“We were not happy with what was presented to us in the past but Airbus has made significant improvements to it since their last statement to us and we are confident they will resolve the concerns we have on that,” Al Baker said.
The airline, which unveiled its new Boeing 787 Dreamliner at the show on Monday, said it expects to receive five Dreamliners this year and the same number in 2013.
It will use the first five on routes to Britain, Japan and Vietnam.
Editing by Mark Potter