Doha: Qatar Airways plans to purchase a 49% stake in Rwanda’s national carrier, stepping up its presence in the market weeks after taking a majority holding in the African country’s new airport.
The Gulf airline is investing in RwandAir after identifying Africa as a market with significant potential, Qatar Airways Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker said in a briefing at the CAPA Qatar Aviation conference on Wednesday. The holding being negotiated will be its first in the continent after a string of deals elsewhere.
Qatar Airways agreed in December to acquire a 60% stake in Rwanda’s new Bugesera International Airport, located south of the capital Kigali, where an existing hub is at full capacity. As part of the deal, the Gulf carrier will help build and run the $1.3 billion facility.
"It will be a very efficient hub in a very stable country in the heart of Africa,” Al Baker said. "And we’re going to take a stake in their national carrier because we see that Africa is another region that has huge growth potential.”
The CEO said that Qatar Airways remains intent on investing in Indigo, India’s biggest airline, but is waiting for the right opportunity and the resolution of a clash between existing shareholders.
Al Baker praised China’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, saying the Asian nation is doing a "fantastic job” in dealing with the epidemic, while suggesting that the global reaction has been "out of proportion.”
The executive said he plans to attend next week’s Singapore air show regardless of the outbreak and won’t be wearing a face mask.
Qatar Airways already owns stakes in British Airways-parent International Airlines Group, China Southern, Cathay Pacific and LATAM Airline Group.
Qatar Airways agreed in December to take a 60% stake in a new airport in Rwanda.
Baker, one of aviation's most well-know executives, also said the airline could be interested in increasing its holding in LATAM and working with fellow shareholder Delta Air Lines.
"When the right opportunity comes and at the right price we will look at increasing our investment in LATAM," he told Reuters.
Qatar Airways, which holds a 10% stake, would be interested in having a stake that is the "same like Delta," which is 20%, he said.