UAE airline moves forward with Air Serbia deal

Published March 25th, 2014 - 04:00 GMT
Etihad will now have a 49 per cent stake in Air Serbia (File Archive)
Etihad will now have a 49 per cent stake in Air Serbia (File Archive)

Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways has confirmed that it has received all requisite government and regulatory approvals sanctioning its partnership with Air Serbia.

The government of Serbia signed a long-term agreement with the Abu Dhabi state carrier and unveiled a $200 million plan to revitalise Air Serbia last year. The deal saw Etihad buying a 49 per cent stake in the Serbian carrier.

Etihad’s chief executive officer James Hogan confirmed that the initial loan of $40 billion to Air Serbia will be converted to equity.

“I am pleased to confirm Etihad Airways is now the shareholder of 49 per cent of Air Serbia. This investment represents an important partnership with the government of Serbia, as we work together to build Air Serbia into the leading airline in the region,” he said.

Air Serbia’s chief executive Dane Kondić said the airline has a strong business plan and a clear government mandate to be a profitable venture.

Etihad, which also has stakes in Virgin Australia and Air Berlin, agreed in 2013 to inject capital into the loss making Air Serbia, previously called JAT Airways.

As per the deal, both the Gulf carrier and the Serbian government would each provide further funding of $60 million through shareholder loans and other funding mechanisms to expand the Air Serbia route network.

Etihad also bagged a five-year management contract with Air Serbia through the deal.

Apart from this partnership, the Abu Dhabi carrier has stakes in Aer Lingus and Air Seychelles. It recently received all regulatory approvals to acquire a 24 per cent stake in India’s Jet Airways.

The airline is also in the final stages of talks to acquire a 40 per cent stake in Italian carrier Alitalia, according to media reports.

Buoyed by state funds and to deal with tough competition from other Gulf carriers, Etihad has been massively expanding its codeshare partnerships.

The carrier recorded a 48 per cent leap in profits to $62 million last year while its revenues rose to reach $6.1 billion, up 27 per cent. Etihad also benefited from a 30 per cent increase in partnership revenues to reach $820 million while its equity alliance stable rose to seven airlines.

By Mary Sophia

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