Qatar Airways rethinks Indian plans due to foreign ownership rules

Enquiries to start the application process in India were rejected over QIA’s ownership of Qatar Airways, Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al-Baker said. (Reuters)
Updated 05 September 2018
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Qatar Airways rethinks Indian plans due to foreign ownership rules

  • India now allows 100 percent ownership of India-based airlines, up from 49 percent, but only with government approval
  • Qatar Airways has been interested in investing in IndiGo for several years, though never bought into the airline

NEW DELHI: Qatar Airways is reviewing plans for its own domestic Indian airline due to “confusing” foreign ownership rules and could work with a partner in India or take a stake in IndiGo instead, its chief executive said on Tuesday.
The state-owned Gulf carrier has long coveted the Indian aviation market, which is the fastest growing in the world, and in 2017 said it would set up a domestic airline, a year after India eased foreign investment rules for the sector.
“We are really very interested to launch an airline in India, but the regulation is a little bit confusing to us,” Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al-Baker told reporters in New Delhi.
India now allows 100 percent ownership of India-based airlines, up from 49 percent, but only with government approval. Meanwhile, foreign airlines continue to be limited to 49 percent ownership.
Qatar Airways planned to own a minority stake of the domestic airline with sovereign wealth fund Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) being the majority owner.
However, enquiries to start the application process in India were rejected over QIA’s ownership of Qatar Airways, Baker said.
“We really don’t know what is allowed,” he said.
Qatar Airways could now work with an Indian partner for the domestic airline or alternatively seek a 15 to 25 percent stake in low cost airline IndiGo. If both of those failed then the airline would have to forget about the domestic market, Baker said.
Qatar Airways has been interested in investing in IndiGo for several years, though never bought into the airline.
Qatar Airways would be interested in buying Air India which the government wants to sell a 76 percent stake in, Baker said, adding it would only want the core airline assets and not other parts of the business such as ground handling services.
Any bid for Air India would be dependent on working with a strong Indian partner, Baker said, adding that the airline’s debt was not an issue. India wants to offload about $5.1 billion of Air India’s debt.
“The (Air India) debt can be taken and restructured. The issue is with whom we will partner.”
Qatar Airways expects to release its annual results in two weeks’ time, Baker said. He has previously said the airline made a “substantial” loss, which it blamed on a regional dispute that has banned the airline from four Arab countries.


RBS says Saudi bank merger boosts its core capital

Updated 57 min 41 sec ago
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RBS says Saudi bank merger boosts its core capital

  • RBS had a 15.3% interest in Alawwal bank
  • The changes would boost the banks CET1 core capital ratio by 60 basis points

Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) said on Sunday the completion of a merger between Alawwal bank and Saudi British Bank would lead to RBS shedding $5.9 billion of risk weighted assets and boost its core capital.
RBS, through Dutch subsidiary NatWest Markets N.V., was part of a consortium including NLFI and Banco Santander S.A. that held an aggregate 40% equity stake in Alawwal bank, the British bank said in a statement. RBS also had an interest equivalent to a 15.3% stake in Alawwal bank.
RBS said that as a result of the merger completion, it would recognise an income gain on disposal of the Alawwal bank stake for shares received in Saudi British Bank of almost $503 million and a reduction in risk weighted assets of nearly $5 billion.
RBS also said the deal would extinguish legacy liabilities of almost $377.
The changes would increase the bank's CET1 core capital ratio by 60 basis points, it said.
The merger will also help RBS to focus on its target markets, RBS chief executive Ross McEwan said in a statement.
RBS, which was rescued in 2008 with a nearly $57 billion capital injection by the British government, has been shrinking its overseas operations since the financial crisis to focus on its UK lending operations.