State-owned Qatar Airways is attempting to buy 10 per cent of American Airlines, a surprising move that would trigger an antitrust review by the U.S. government and carry political and trade-policy implications.
American Airlines Group Inc. said in a regulatory filing Thursday that the bid was unsolicited but that the CEOs of both carriers had discussed the plan.
American, the world’ biggest airline, said that Qatar Airways told regulators it intends to buy at least $808 million in stock on the open market, and Qatar’s CEO told American CEO Doug Parker he wanted to acquire about 10 per cent of American’s stock in all, which would cost $2.4 billion at American’s midday stock price.
The airline’s shares rose slightly Thursday.
Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker is known for his brash style. His company owns a stake in the parent of British Airways, a close partner of American. Still, the timing of the announcement caught everyone off guard.
American, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines are in a nasty dispute with the three major airlines operating out of the Middle East. They accuse Qatar, Emirates and Etihad of receiving massive and illegal subsidies from the governments that own them. The U.S. carriers are trying to block the three airlines from expanding service to the U.S.
Also, the Middle Eastern airlines have cut into some very lucrative routes for U.S. carriers overseas.
And right now, Qatar Airways is getting bruised by a dispute between its national government and neighbouring countries led by Saudi Arabia, which accuse Qatar of supporting Islamic extremists. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain have barred Qatar Airways flights.
President Donald Trump has tweeted support for the blockade of Qatar, despite the presence of a massive and strategic U.S. military base within its borders. Yet this week, the State Department asked Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries to detail their complaints about the small Persian Gulf…