August 2, 2017 / 3:43 PM / 4 months ago

Qatar Airways reverses decision to buy into American Airlines

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Qatar Airways will not proceed with its proposed financial investment in American Airlines Group Inc (AAL.O), reversing an earlier decision to build a stake of up to 4.75 percent in the U.S. carrier.

“Further review of the proposed financial investment, taking into account the latest public disclosure of American Airlines, has demonstrated that the investment no longer meets our objectives,” Qatar Airways said in a statement.

The statement did not elaborate, but in its most recent financial disclosure American Airlines posted profit and revenue that exceeded analysts’ expectations.

“Qatar Airways will continue to investigate alternative investment opportunities in the United States of America and elsewhere that do meet our objectives,” the Qatar Airways statement said.

The news came as a relief to American Airlines executives, who have from the beginning been vocally opposed to the share buy.

“We respect Qatar Airways’ decision not to proceed with its proposed investment in American Airlines. This in no way changes the course for American,” American Airlines spokesman Matt Miller said.

Qatar Airways’ proposal to buy into American was met with suspicion by critics at a time when Qatar is embroiled in the region’s worst diplomatic crisis in years and is locked in an airspace rights dispute with three other Gulf states.

Qatar Airways Chief Executive Akbar al-Baker has said it was “business as usual” for the carrier despite the cutting of ties by the four Arab states, although he has acknowledged there has been a financial impact.

The state-owned carrier lost access to 18 Middle East destinations in fallout from the ongoing regional political crisis.

    Also complicating matters for Qatar, legacy carriers in the United States have for years charged that their Gulf rivals, including Qatar, have received billions of dollars of unfair state subsidies, allegations the Gulf carriers deny.

    When news broke of Qatar’s intentions, American Airlines slammed the move, accusing the Middle Eastern carrier of receiving “illegal” state subsidies.

    In response to the proposed investment, American said it was canceling its code-share agreements with Qatar Airways and Gulf rival Etihad Airways.

    American, along with U.S. competitors Delta Air Lines (DAL.N) and United Airlines (UAL.N), have pressed the U.S. government to curb U.S. flights by Qatar Airways, Emirates and Etihad Airways.

    Shares of American were down 1.72 percent, $50.18, in afternoon trading.

    Reporting by Alana Wise; Editing by Chris Reese and Tom Brown

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