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Qatar Airways group chief executive of Akbar Al Baker. Photo: AFP
Qatar Airways group chief executive of Akbar Al Baker. Photo: AFP

Qatar Airways still keen on buying stake in Indigo

Qatar Airways group chief executive of Akbar Al Baker says his airline could not invest in IndiGo's IPO owing to government regulations

Hyderabad: Years have passed, but Qatar Airways continues to long for IndiGo.

The national carrier of Qatar on Wednesday restated its long-standing desire to buy a stake in India’s largest and most profitable airline, which has rebuffed the offer right from the beginning.

Qatar Airways group chief executive of Akbar Al Baker said his airline could not invest in IndiGo’s initial public offer (IPO) owing to government regulations and lack of sufficient time for Qatar’s sovereign funds to buy IndiGo shares.

According to Al Baker, his airline did show interest in IndiGo at one time, but could not invest directly in the IPO. “We had to do it with our parent company, and our parent organization, which is our sovereign fund, and to do that, we needed more time and the time was too short for us to move on this," Al Baker said on Wednesday on the sidelines of India Aviation 2016, an international exhibition and conference organised by the ministry of civil aviation.

“If they are interested, Qatar Airways will be very interested," he added.

For several years, Qatar Airways was reported to be in talks with airlines in India, the world’s fastest growing aviation market. In the past, it tried to woo Kingfisher Airlines Ltd, before the Vijay Mallya-controlled carrier was grounded in 2012 owing to financial troubles.

Then, the Doha-based airline tried to engage GoAir, run by the Wadia Group’s Go Airlines (India) Ltd. That too went nowhere.

Then the rumours began. One rumour, in 2012, was that Qatar Airways was interested in SpiceJet Ltd, India’s second-largest low-cost airline. As is the fate with most such rumours, it died down. In an interview in April 2014, Qatar Airways chief executive officer Akbar Al Baker denied any interest in any Indian airline.

Earlier in May 2013, Al Baker had said his airline is in talks with India’s largest airline by market share, IndiGo, run by InterGlobe Aviation Ltd, for a code-sharing agreement. Such an agreement allows more than one airline firm to sell tickets on each others’ flights. IndiGo promptly denied any such talk.

Then in January 2015, Qatar Airways said it was keen to buy equity in IndiGo if the Indian airline offered 49%.

On Wednesday, Al Baker said he was never in discussions with SpiceJet, Jet Airways or GoAir, but reiterated his interest in IndiGo “if there is an opportunity."

“I cannot force IndiGo promoters to sell stake," Al Baker said.

IndiGo had denied any such move to sell the stake to Qatar Airways while its top management representatives had said that it was flattering to receive such offers.

Al Baker said he will be keen to pursue a follow-on share sale of IndiGo or any such opportunity, if it gets sufficient time to invest. “At present, I am not talking to any other Indian airlines," Al Baker said.

Asked about a marketing alliance with IndiGo, Al Baker said IndiGo was not considering Qatar flights for domestic growth.

Al Baker also lashed out against Indian government authorities. “Qatar is unfairly treated by Indian authorities," Al Baker alleged, despite the Gulf country being the largest supplier of natural gas and fertilisers to India.

He said as an airline, Qatar Airways cannot raise this issue, but the Qatar government had raised it many times.

Al Baker said since 2009, flying bilaterals have never given to Qatar while India has opened up bilaterals to other Gulf countries.

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