Qatar Airways Wants To Buy Lufthansa Stake (But Probably Won’t)

Filed Under: Lufthansa, Qatar

The biggest talker in the airline industry has just talked.

Qatar Airways Considers Lufthansa Investment

It’s being reported that Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al-Baker has expressed interest in an investment in Lufthansa. Al-Baker is quoted as saying yesterday that “if there is an opportunity to invest in Lufthansa, we would like to do it.”

He went on to say that “Germany is a very important country for us, both in terms of air transport services and in terms of development of tourism.”

Al-Baker has said that Qatar Airways would initially look into a partnership with Lufthansa, and then possibly look into investing.

However, it seems clear that no conversations have happened between the two airlines. Quite to the contrary, Lufthansa claims they’re not open to this. A Lufthansa spokesperson said “we did not have Lufthansa privatised in Germany to have it nationalised in Qatar.” Hah, well played.

Lufthansa 747-8

What Should We Make Of This?

How much should we read into this? Should we expect that Qatar Airways will leave oneworld? Should we expect that Lufthansa leave Star Alliance? Should we expect that Lufthansa will cut ties with Etihad?

Nope, none of those…

On the one hand, Qatar Airways actually has invested in a lot of airlines. Qatar Airways owns stakes in IAG (the parent company of British Airways, Iberia, and Aer Lingus), LATAM, Cathay Pacific, Air Italy, China Southern, and more.

So the airline does have a record of investments, though on the other hand Al-Baker also has a record of saying just about anything he feels like, even if not much thought goes into it.

This comment was made to German press, and presumably they asked if he has any interest in Lufthansa. I would guess that he would have responded similarly to reporters from just about any country. If the North Korean free press were there and asked about the odds of Qatar Airways investing in Air Koryo, he may have responded similarly.

In this particular situation:

  • Presumably Qatar Airways could buy a minority stake in Lufthansa, even if Lufthansa isn’t necessarily in favor of it (at least that’s my understanding of German markets — someone correct me if I’m wrong)
  • Presumably Qatar Airways is interested in this investment because they’re hoping it would lead to closer relations with Lufthansa, and get Lufthansa on their side when it comes to expansion in Germany; that’s highly unlikely to happen
  • Lufthansa has been an outspoken critic of Gulf carriers (despite their partnership with Etihad), and Gulf carriers have been limited in terms of the amount of capacity they can offer to Germany

Qatar Airways A380

Bottom Line

I’d put the odds of Qatar buying a stake in Lufthansa being about as high as the odds of there being any truth to Singapore having stolen the design for “The Jewel” from Doha.

Presumably Qatar’s primary motivation in wanting to invest in Lufthansa is a partnership with them and also more lax regulations in Germany, and neither of those seem likely. So I wouldn’t put much weight into this as of now.

What do you make of Qatar Airways’ interest in Lufthansa?

Comments
  1. I would suggest that Mr Al Baker spend his time, effort, and money in trying to make Qatar Airways profitable.

  2. The state of Qatar and the European Union have signed a new air transport agreement which gives Qatar Airways more access to the European market. It is expected that next year they will expand service from the current 5 daily flights to Germany (2x FRA, 2x MUC, 1x TXL) significantly by adding flights to DUS, STR, HAM and a second daily TXL flight.
    Qatar may be looking at Lufthansa to provide them some short-haul feed and probably more connections to South America.
    In terms of investing Qatar Airways is free to acquire Lufthansa shares on the open market, however keep in mind that 51% of the shares have to be held by European investors (otherwise Lufthansa would not count as European airline anymore and would loose market access).
    As a significant amount of Lufthansa shares are held by foreign etfs who can not simply sell to Qatar Airways this limits the amount of shares they can practically acquire.

  3. The German regulators are unfairly protecting Lufthansa by restricting access to the Gulf carriers. Open Skies agreement now!

  4. @Ray Qatar and the EU already have agreed on that, becoming effective next year. UAE has not offered anything meaningful to the EU and therefore does not get an Open Skies agreement.

  5. “We did not have Lufthansa privatised in Germany to have it nationalised in Qatar.”

    That statement is so stupid in many ways – first of all, if they want to distance themselves from governmental influence, how about opening up German skies then? Can’t have your cake and eat it too.

    Secondly, it goes to show what being “privatised” does to an airline – LH is a pile of garbage while I would fly Qatar Airways over them every time.

  6. IMO…it’s foolishness or strategy. Hear me out:

    Foolish- he’s just informed competition of his intention/moves giving them the opportunity to
    a- LH perform stock buy backs to gain a greater stake in their game
    b- competition purchases greater stock in LH and ices him out

    Strategy- he’s counting on the moves above and can
    a- cry foul protectionism by LH and bring legal action to allow Qatar (among others) greater opportunities to service Germany
    b- watch other outside competition purchase greater stake in LH that may potentially open services from said competition allowing Qatar to expand without any additional cash output all by throwing a thought out in the universe

    It’ll be interesting to see what/if anything comes of his statement.

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