Qatar Airways has full confidence in Cathay Pacific, eyes bigger stake

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Qatar Airways has full confidence in Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd 0293.HK and will increase its 10% stake in the Hong Kong carrier if it has any opportunity to do so, the Qatari airline's chief executive said on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO: A Qatar Airways Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner airplane is pictured at Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino Airport in Rome, Italy, March 30, 2019. REUTERS/Alberto Lingria

Cathay has become the biggest corporate casualty of political unrest in Hong Kong after China demanded it suspend staff involved in, or who support, anti-government demonstrations.

“Cathay Pacific is there to stay, and to expand and to serve the people of both Hong Kong and China, as Hong Kong is an integral part of mainland China,” Qatar Airways’ Chief Executive Akbar al-Baker said. “We have no concern about the brand, we have no concern on the viability of the airline.”

He was speaking at a function to announce the launch of flights from Doha to the Malaysian island of Langkawi from October.

The Hong Kong airline's other major shareholders are Swire Pacific Ltd 0019.HK, which has a 45% stake and management rights, and Air China Ltd 601111.SS, with 30%.

Qatar bought its stake in 2017 and has previously expressed interest in increasing it, although it has said the tight share register makes that difficult.

Analysts have said Air China could look to increase its stake in Cathay in the future as China tightens its grip over the former British colony.

“We as an airline are very supportive of the relationship between Air China and Cathay Pacific,” al-Baker told Reuters on the sidelines of the function.

Qatar Airways is also an investor in British Airways parent International Consolidated Airlines Group ICAG.L and LATAM Airlines Group SA LTM.SN.

Al-Baker, however, said his airline is not interested in buying Malaysia Airlines, at a time when sovereign wealth fund Khazanah Nasional Bhd is considering offers for the national carrier.

Qatar Airways is also not interested in buying Air India in an upcoming government sales process, he said.

Reporting by Liz Lee in Kuala Lumpur; Writing by Jamie Freed; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Muralikumar Anantharaman