* Qatar sovereign fund buys stakes of ex-PM, others
* Qatar Airways interested in stake in India's IndiGo
* Says close to a revenue-sharing deal with British Airways
(Adds more comments, Qatar Airways revenue figures)
By Praveen Menon
DUBAI, May 5 Qatar's sovereign wealth fund has
bought the stakes in its national airline owned by a former
prime minister and other shareholders, making Qatar Airways a
fully government-owned entity, the carrier's chief executive
said on Monday.
A government source told Reuters that Qatar wanted ruling
family members to have fewer direct stakes in local businesses.
"There are changes happening. Qatar wants to have a fair and
competitive business environment for everyone," the source said.
The deal is the latest shift in strategy to be implemented
by Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, who took over from his
father as Qatar's emir last June. He has replaced some senior
economic officials, and in a policy speech last November said he
was particularly keen to prevent high inflation and corruption.
Qatar Airways, which achieved a revenue target of over $10
billion in 2013, had been jointly held in a public-private
partnership, with about 50 percent owned by the former prime
minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani - a member of the
ruling family - along with other investors.
"We became fully government-owned in July last year," the
airline's CEO Akbar Al Baker said at a news conference in Dubai.
Baker declined to comment on the amount paid for the stakes
by the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) or to speculate on what
triggered the change in ownership.
Sheikh Hamad was until last year chief executive of the QIA
and was regarded as the driving force behind its emergence as
one of the world's most sought-after investors, scooping up
stakes in bluechip companies, luxury brands and real estate.
Last week, a fund owned by Sheikh Hamad struck a deal to buy
British oil company Heritage Oil for 924 million pounds ($1.6
Baker said that after the ownership change the airline
planned to announce its 2013 financial results before the third
quarter of the year.
"We are a very profitable airline. We don't announce the
results because we were private and publicly held in the past.
Now we will announce profits," he said.
Qatar Airways competes with regional rivals Emirates
and Etihad Airways as the state-backed carriers
rapidly expand their fleet and global reach.
It became part of the Oneworld global aviation alliance last
year, the first Gulf airline to enter into an alliance.
Etihad has been expanding by picking minority stakes in
carriers around the world including Air Berlin, Virgin
Australia and Inida's Jet Airways.
Baker said he was also interested in entering the Indian
airline market, and would be keen for an association with
India's IndiGo Airlines.
"We are always open to opportunities in India," he said.
"We would be very interested in IndiGo if there's something
available there. But the airline is performing very well so I
don't think they would be interested."
IndiGo declined to comment on Baker's remarks.
Baker added Qatar Airways was close to sealing a
revenue-sharing partnership with British Airways, its Oneworld
(Additional reporting by Amena Bakr in Doha and Devidutta
Tripathy in New Delhi; Reporting by Praveen Menon in Dubai;
Editing by Yara Bayoumy, Jason Neely and Mark Potter)