Have you heard of Meridiana? Chances are you haven’t, and that’s for good reason. They’re a small, nearly bankrupt airline in Italy with about 20 planes, half of which are ancient MD-80s.
For a while there have been rumors that Qatar Airways is considering buying a stake in the struggling airline. And those rumors are now being confirmed by Qatar Airways’ CEO, Akbar Al Baker. Via ansamed.info:
The CEO of Qatar Airways Akbar Al Baker said Thursday that the carrier was considering a tie-up with Italy’s Meridiana airlines.
“We have studied Meridiana carefully, we are in the due diligence phase,” said Al Baker.
“If we believe that we have synergies, we will be more than happy to help Meridiana, also to create jobs in Italy”. He told a news conference that Qatar Airways “is studying any opportunities to grow our business” and has a particular interest in expanding its presence in Italy.
Sardinia-based Meridiana has been struggling and in late April, reading an agreement with workers on safeguards to keep the carrier in business, the industry ministry said that pact would provide another 12 months of State-subsidized support for about 1,800 workers to prevent their layoffs.
So what could Qatar Airways’ motivation be to buy an Italian low cost carrier with an aging fleet which is on the verge of bankruptcy?
I suppose the simple answer is “monkey see, monkey do.” Etihad is buying a stake in Alitalia (which, crazy as it seems, I can rationalize — they’ll get a lot of soft political power out of that).
So clearly Al Baker had a “me too” moment. And I guess Meridiana are the leftovers… and who doesn’t love Italian leftovers? Yummm…
Al Baker points out that past performance isn’t as important as future performance:
Meanwhile, Al Baker said that past performance of a company is not necessarily as important as future results, he added.
“We are not interested in companies based on how they were handled, but if we invest we do create a corporate culture similar to ours,” he said.
While that’s technically true, past performance is a good indicator of future performance…
On the plus side, at least Al Baker seems to be able to relate to the employees of his own company in one way:
“Unfortunately, we are slaves to Italian authorities”.
I understand the general approach Middle Eastern carriers are taking when it comes to taking over foreign carriers. It’s less about making money on the airlines, and more about expanding their power. The more money they invest in other countries, the less friction there will be with their expansion plans. At least in theory. The fascination here with Italy seems especially odd, though, when there are so many other struggling European airlines which are potentially more promising.
I’ll be curious to see if anything comes of this.
Anyone have any other theories on why Qatar Airways is even considering getting tied up with Meridiana?