Qatar Airways said that it has a 5 per cent stake in China Southern Airlines for an undisclosed sum on December 28 last year.
Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker said the acquisition pointed to seeking closer cooperation and a longer-term relationship beyond the stake transaction. “There are opportunities for us to work together and build a long-term relationship in ways that would bring benefits to customers of both airlines,” Al Baker said, noting China’s domestic travel market was “important” to have a foothold in.
The deal gives it a useful foot-hold in what is expected to become the largest aviation market in the world in the coming decade. The International Air Transport Association (IATA), a trade body for the world’s airlines, predicts 1 billion more Chinese passengers will be taking to the skies by 2037.
In recent years, Qatar Airways has built up significant stakes in foreign carriers. The Gulf carrier, fully owned by the Qatari government, already has a 9.99 per cent stake in Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways and in a number of others including a 20 per cent stake in British Airways’ parent International Airlines Group, 10 per cent in South American carrier Latam and 49 per cent of Air Italy.
China Southern is growing its hub, carrying passengers from Europe and the United States to Australia via Guangzhou and attempting to act as a key stopover for international flights into mainland China.
The airline is plotting major expansion, thanks to extra capacity built in Guangzhou and after it moves to its new home in Beijing when Daxing Airport opens later in the year.