Etihad Airways would sell its stake in Aer Lingus if the Irish government backs International Airlines Group’s £1 billion offer for the carrier.
The message came from the boss of the Gulf carrier as Aer Lingus chief executive Stephen Kavanagh suggested that Dublin could decide on a sale of the government’s 25.1% stake early next month
Etihad took a 3% shareholding in Aer Lingus in 2012 and increased its holding to 4.9% last year. It is the third largest shareholder in the Irish airline.
Chief executive James Hogan told the Financial Times: “Our investment in Aer Lingus has been a sound one and we are heading for a great return if the IAG bid is approved by the Irish government.
“If IAG are successful I would expect us to divest.”
Hogan, said Etihad had hoped to accomplish more with its equity investment.
“While we have a good relationship [Aer Lingus] had its model which was very focused on transatlantic,” he said. “We were keen to have Aer Lingus flying to Abu Dhabi.”
He added that Etihad hoped to “continue our commercial relationship”.
Hogan also hit back at US carriers, who allege that Etihad and other Gulf airlines benefit from illegal subsidies.
“We will respond to the US government and we will show we are working within a commercial mandate,” he said.
Hogan will name Delta, United, American, Lufthansa and Air France and say that their attacks on Emirates, Qatar Airways and his airline are punctuated by “hypocrisy, inaccuracy, scaremongering and self-interest,” according to the Times.
In a speech at the Aviation Club in London, he will say: “These five mega-carriers are extremely concerned about the competitive threat posed by the Gulf carriers.
“Five mega-carriers are trying to pull the ladder up after years of having it their own way. The people that will really lose… are the millions of travellers benefiting from new choice.”
The three main US airlines have produced a report demanding that “open skies” agreements in the US, which allow international airlines unfettered access, are rewritten.
In Europe, Lufthansa and Air France have complained about the growth of flights between Europe and the Middle East being dominated by the Gulf carriers.
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