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.


Cyprus, Egypt sign accord for Mediterranean gas pipeline

Updated 19 September 2018
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Cyprus, Egypt sign accord for Mediterranean gas pipeline

NICOSIA: Cyprus and Egypt on Wednesday signed an agreement paving the way for the Mediterranean’s first subsea pipeline to carry Cypriot natural gas to the Arab country for re-export to Europe.
“Today’s signing is an important milestone, not only for Cyprus but also the entire eastern Mediterranean region,” said Energy Minister George Lakkotrypis after he signed alongside visiting Egyptian Oil Minister Tarek el-Molla.
He said the agreement, “the first of its kind in our shared region,” was crucial for channelling gas from the island’s “Aphrodite” offshore field to Egypt and to attract multi-billion-dollar infrastructure investments.
A joint committee would be set up in 30 days to oversee the project.
Texas-based Noble Energy in 2011 made the first discovery off Cyprus in the Aphrodite block estimated to contain 4.5 trillion cubic feet (130 billion cubic feet) of gas but it has yet to be extracted.
The Aphrodite consortium, which also includes Israel’s Delek and Royal Dutch Shell, seeks to renegotiate terms before it taps the gas.
It is currently in talks with the Cypriot government over a bigger share of profits to make the project viable.
The discovery of nearby Egypt’s huge Zohr offshore reservoir in 2015 has stoked interest that Cypriot waters could hold the same riches.
Wednesday’s agreement is backed by the European Union in its search to diversify energy sources.
“We are essentially talking about a European pipeline, intended to transport Cypriot natural gas to Egypt for re-export to Europe in the form of liquified natural gas (LNG),” said Lakkotrypis.
The pace of construction of the pipeline to deliver gas to Egypt would depend on commercial agreements with investors.
Cyprus aims for natural gas to start flowing to Egypt’s LNG facilities in 2022, thus generating its first revenue from natural gas.
The island has also issued exploration licenses to ENI of Italy, the US firm ExxonMobil and France’s Total.