Qatar Airways boosts stake in Aer Lingus-owner IAG to 25%

New $600m stake in airline group advances strategy of building a global portfolio of international carriers

Qatar Airways has bought a $600 million (€555.5m) stake in Aer Lingus and British Airways-owner IAG to increase its holding to 25.1 per cent, advancing its strategy of building a global portfolio of international carriers.

In an endorsement of the group just weeks before its founder Willie Walsh steps down, Qatar said that increasing its stake was evidence of its support for the company and its strategy.

Qatar previously held 21.4 per cent of IAG, which also owns Spanish carriers Iberia and Vuelin. IAG's share price has risen by 52 per cent in the last six months.

The state-owned Qatar Airways, one of the Middle East’s biggest, has said its investments in other carriers were mostly for financial purposes.

It bought some of its holdings after the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia banned it from their airspace after a regional political dispute, which Qatar Airways has blamed for its recent losses.

It has minority holdings in international carriers Cathay Pacific and China Southern, and said this month it was interested in doubling its holding in LATAM Airlines Group to 20 per cent and was in talks to buy a 49 per cent stake in Africa's RwandAir.

The airline also owns 49 per cent of Air Italy, whose investors this month said was being placed into liquidation because of "persistent and structural market problems".

IAG was created by a merger between the British and Spanish flag carriers in 2011, overseen by Mr Walsh, who will step down next month. Luis Gallego, who had led Iberia since 2014, will succeed Mr Walsh, an appointment that analysts said signalled little change of direction for the group.

Qatar Airways group chief executive Akbar Al Baker said: "Our investment to date has been highly successful, and the announced increase in our shareholding is evidence of our continued support of IAG and its strategy."

Qatar first invested in IAG in 2015, buying 9.99 per cent of the company, and has steadily increased it since then. – Reuters