Qatar Airways says studying Czech Airlines privatization
DUBAI (Reuters) - Qatar Airways is interested in the privatization of Czech Airlines (CSA), but has not taken a decision on whether to participate in it, the chief executive of the Gulf carrier said on Tuesday.
The Czech government said last week it was in early stage talks with Qatar Airways and Korean Air (003490.KS) over the privatization of the carrier, adding a decision on privatization could be taken as early as April.
"We have studied it but have not concluded anything," Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker told Reuters at a business jets air show in Dubai.
"We are still looking at the proposal," he added, declining further comment.
Gulf carriers are on an acquisition spree with Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways picking up stakes in four airlines this year including Air Berlin (AB1.DE) and Virgin Australia (VAH.AX).
Qatar Airways, which competes with other regional giants like Etihad and Emirates EMIRA.UL, also took a 35 percent stake in Cargolux last year.
The Czech government tried to privatize Czech Airlines in 2009 following heavy losses from a failed expansion plan. But that fell through after the sole bidder, Czech charter airline Travel Service, refused to buy the airline without securing a capital injection from the government.
Czech Airlines, a member of the Sky Team alliance which also includes Delta (DAL.N) and Air France (AIRF.PA), has had to cut back its fleet and services to avoid collapse. It lost 241 million crowns ($12.5 million) last year.
The company is owned by state holding group Cesky Aeroholding, which also operates Prague Airport.
Qatar Airways, which received its first Boeing (BA.N) 787 Dreamliner earlier this month, will take appropriate action against the planemaker if a recent manufacturing fault in the fuel line is not resolved, Baker said.
U.S. regulators ordered the entire fleet of 787 jets to be inspected for a possible fuel line problem earlier this month, on the same day a brand new United Airlines (UAL.N) Dreamliner with 184 people aboard was forced to make an emergency landing due to an undefined mechanical issue.
Baker said the incidents were a concern.
"It is very worrying for us because we are an operator. If it continues we will have to see what action we can take from the options contractually (available) with us."
Qatar has placed orders for 60 Dreamliners - 30 firm and an option for 30 more.
The mechanical issues, while not uncommon for airlines, are another headache for Boeing - a company still working to overcome the negative perception of production problems that delayed delivery of the 787 by 3-1/2 years.
Baker also said Qatar Airways was still in talks with Canadian planemaker Bombardier (BBDb.TO) to buy 10 corporate jets in a deal valued around $700 million.
The chief executive said in April the order was imminent, without specifying a time frame.
However, he said no talks were ongoing on the CSeries aircraft at the moment.
"It (CSeries jet) is interesting but we are not talking to them about it because we are too busy with our other programs. Once we finish, we will talk to them about it," said Baker.
(Editing by Mark Potter)