Qatar Airways has acquired a 9.99 per cent stake in International Airlines Group, owners of British Airways, Iberia and Veuling.
In a statement the Qatari flag-carrier said the deal was part of its efforts to enhance operations and strengthen existing commercial ties initiated through codeshare agreements with IAG, as well as its membership of the oneworld alliance.
Non-EU shareholders of IAG including Qatar Airways are subject to an overall cap on non-EU ownership as a result of the requirement for EU airlines to be majority owned by EU shareholders.
Qatar Airways may consider increasing its stake further over time although this is not currently intended to exceed 9.99 per cent.
“IAG represents an excellent opportunity to further develop our westwards strategy,” said Akbar Al Baker, group chief executive of Qatar Airways.
“Having joined the oneworld alliance it makes sense for us to work more closely together in the near term and we look forward to forging a long-term relationship.”
IAG itself is presently in the process of expanding, having seen a third offer to acquire Irish carrier Aer Lingus recommended by the board to shareholders.
That deal, however, must still overcome opposition from the Irish state, which fears cuts in service to Dublin airport, and Ryanair, which owns nearly one third of the company.
Commenting on the share Qatar Airways investment IAG chief executive Willie Walsh said: “We’re delighted to have Qatar Airways, one of the world’s premier airlines, as a long term supportive shareholder.
“We will talk to them about what opportunities exist to work more closely together and further IAG’s ambitions as the leading global airline group.”