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American Airlines: Qatar Airways Interested in Buying 10 Percent Stake

24 Juin 2017

According to the filing to the US Securities and Exchange Commission, the CEOs of both companies spoke about the matter in a conversation initiated by Qatar boss Akbar Al-baker. Based on this price and the 493 million public shares as of 21 April, Qatar would need to invest roughly $2.38 billion for a 10% stake in the U.S. airline. The U.S. carriers charge that their Gulf rivals have received billions of dollars in unfair state subsidies, allegations the Gulf carriers deny.In his letter, American CEO Doug Parker promised to continue American's "full court stand up to companies that are illegally subsidized by their governments". According to US laws, foreign entities are not allowed to have a voting interest in an airline that is more than 24.9 percent.

Qatar Airways, its Middle Eastern business pressured by a diplomatic row with neighbours, is seeking as much as a 10 per cent stake in American Airlines, the USA carrier said on Thursday.

Other US carriers, including United and Delta Air Lines, also rose.

United States commentators suggested the move by Qatar is an attempt to muddy the waters in the battle by the U.S. carriers against their Gulf counterparts.

American, along with other major domestic players, has accused Qatar and other Gulf airlines of violating air treaties, called Open Skies agreements, by fueling their growth with huge subsidies from their government backers.

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Qatar's proposed investment wouldn't change its board makeup, governance, management or strategic direction, American said Thursday.

Shares of American Airlines jumped 1.7 percent to $49.24 in mid-morning trading. Two weeks ago, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia turned their back on Qatar, accusing the tiny nation of supporting terrorist activities including the Muslim Brotherhood. Qatar Airways also won the award for Best Business Class in the World and Best Airline in the Middle East.

The move by Qatar could be part of an effort to expand its investments in other members of the OneWorld alliance.

Qatar Airways indicated its interest in buying a stake in American on the open market, American said in the filing. And in December it announced a 10 percent stake in Chile's LATAM Airlines Group, acquired for $608 million. American's board would have to approve an acquisition of more than 4.75 percent, but Allied Pilots Association spokesman Capt. Dennis Tajer is skeptical of the offer.