In late June, Qatar Airways announced their intentions to buy up to a 10% stake in American Airlines. Per a filing at the time, Qatar first wanted to acquire an $808 million stake (~4%) in American, and was considering increasing that at a later point. While I’d usually call Qatar’s bluffs, the airline has purchased a significant stake in IAG, the parent company of British Airways, so this move didn’t seem that unusual.
Not surprisingly, American’s CEO claimed he wasn’t “particularly excited” about this news, and described the news for many as “puzzling, at best, and concerning, at worst.” This is probably largely due to the dispute between US carriers and Gulf carriers, and really he had to say that, give the (deceptive) smear campaign that the US carriers are running against the Gulf carriers.
Well, it looks like this is now off the table. Qatar Airways has announced that they won’t be proceeding with their investment in American Airlines. Per a statement from Qatar Airways:
Qatar Airways has taken the decision not to proceed with its proposed passive financial investment in American Airlines. Further review of the proposed financial investment, taking into account the latest public disclosure of American Airlines, has demonstrated that the investment no longer meets our objectives. Qatar Airways will continue to investigate alternative investment opportunities in the United States of America and elsewhere that do meet our objectives. Qatar Airways will continue to seek opportunities to invest in global aviation to support the airline’s goal to offer the best possible travel experience for its customers.
It’s interesting that they say this “investment no longer meets [their] objectives.” Officially I assume their objective in investing in a company would be to get a return on their investment, rather than any ulterior motives.
However, reading between the lines I suspect another objective of the investment was to try and have some soft power over American, get them to cooperate better, etc. I’m not sure if anything went on behind the scenes to make them realize that’s not happening, or what. It’s also entirely possible that Qatar is just in a bad situation right now with too much going on, so they don’t want to spend nearly a billion dollars on this right now.
So we don’t really know why Qatar Airways changed their mind, or just how serious they were at the beginning, rather than just playing a big mind game.