Etihad prepared to sell off 7.5% stake in Aer Lingus

Having originally taken a 3% stake in Aer Lingus in May 2012 and increased that by acquiring a further 4.5% last year, Etihad Airways has announced that should the deal to sell Aer Lingus to IAG be backed by the Irish government, they would be prepared to sell off their stake in the airline. The investment in Aer Lingus by Etihad was intended to increase its international reach through local partnerships. If the proposed €1.35bn (US$1.48bn) deal goes ahead, Etihad will profit handsomely from the deal. Whether they will aim to acquire a share in IAG or restructure a code-sharing agreement with them will have to be seen, but Etihad acquired the share in Aer Lingus to increase their European strength to enable them to better compete against other Gulf airlines, as well as to help feed European passengers into Etihad’s onward network to Asia. Etihad has been able to achieve this partly with their 30% stake in airberlin, while they have also recently secured European Union approval to acquire 49% of Alitalia, yet another in a series of acquisitions made by the Abu Dhabi-based airline to expand its worldwide network. However this expansion would seem to no longer include a partnership with Malaysia Airlines, whose head is the former chief executive of Aer Lingus, Christoph Mueller. Etihad Airways’ chief executive, James Hogan, confirmed: “We have a code share with Malaysia Airlines and it is a good relationship.” Whether that relationship will change in time is yet to be seen, but any rescue plans for Malaysia Airlines involving Etihad Airways are now on hold.

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