December 2, 2019 / 7:50 AM / 5 days ago

Germany's Lufthansa says not open to Qatar investment

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Lufthansa responded coldly on Monday to a report that rival Qatar Airways was interested in taking a stake in or collaborating with the German airline.

Lufthansa airplanes are seen parked on the tarmac during a strike of cabin crew union (UFO) at Frankfurt airport, Germany November 7, 2019. REUTERS/Ralph Orlowski/Files

The Gulf carrier, which holds minority stakes in airlines including IAG, Cathay Pacific, and China Southern Airlines, has been seeking to boost collaborations.

Its chief executive Akbar al-Baker was quoted by German news agency dpa on Sunday as saying he was interested in investing in Lufthansa to seize business opportunities in Europe’s biggest economy.

“We did not have Lufthansa privatised in Germany to have it nationalised in Qatar,” a Lufthansa spokesman said.

Initially, Qatar Airways would also look into a partnership with Lufthansa to ramp up air transport services and tourism in Germany, Al-Baker told dpa in Doha on the sidelines of a visit of the premier of regional state Lower Saxony to Qatar.

State-owned Qatar Airways declined to comment.

Lufthansa needs to limit ownership by shareholders from non-European Union member states to 49% to preserve its aviation licences.

Its CEO Carsten Spohr has repeatedly criticised Gulf rivals such as Qatar, Emirates and Etihad Airways of receiving what he describes as unfair state subsidies.

Shares in Lufthansa were up 1.9% at 0911 GMT on Monday.

Dpa also quoted the Qatar Airways CEO as saying the carrier’s membership of the Oneworld airline alliance would not stand in the way of a pact with Lufthansa, which is part of rival Star Alliance.

“We have said several time that we will leave OneWorld,” he told dpa.

Al-Baker said in October that while considering a withdrawal a final decision had not been made.

He also said then his airline would consider lifting its 10% stake in Chilean carrier LATAM Airlines Group SA if the opportunity came up.

Last month Qatar signed a codeshare agreement with top Indian airline IndiGo, winning more access to the fast-growing Indian market.

Reporting Ilona Wissenbach in Frankfurt and Davide Barbuscia in Dubai; Writing by Ludwig Burger; Editing by Alexander Smith and Emelia Sithole-Matarise

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