Qatar Airways takes 35 percent of Cargolux
After months of speculation, Qatar Airways has reached an agreement with Cargolux to acquire a 35-percent stake in the Luxembourg-based carrier for an undisclosed amount.
The deal will help Qatar expand its freighter operations into the European market. Qatar currently owns five freighters and has placed an order for four Boeing 777Fs. In addition, the carrier is exploring the possibility of converting A330s to cargo planes. Compared to Qatar's holdings, Cargolux has a massive freighter fleet; it currently operates 16 Boeing 747Fs and has ordered 13 Boeing 747-8 freighters, making it the launch customer of the new craft.
“The agreement signed today is the first major step by Qatar Airways towards substantially expanding the cargo side of its operations, a great opportunity to capitalise on a rapid growth business," said Qatar's CEO Akbar Al Baker after signing the agreement with Cargolux's CEO Frank Reimen. "We seek to fuel our growth plans by further developing our air freight business as a major part of our overall product offering and develop Qatar as a leading global cargo hub and one of the major players in the international freight market by 2015."
Baker added that Qatar and Cargolux will experience more growth next year when an international airport opens in Doha. The goal, he said, is to make that new airport a cargo hub.
After the signing, Reimen said the deal is the start of a symbiotic relationship.
“We have identified numerous synergies owing to the complementary nature of our businesses that will enable us to develop scale and reach and strengthen our respective hubs in Luxembourg and Doha," he said in a statement. "The implementation of the cooperation plan will be a driver of high customer satisfaction, enhance our competitiveness through improved returns and benefit the Luxembourg economy overall through extra trucking and handling tonnage, and the creation of new jobs.”
Cargolux has entertained offers before. In 2005, Etihad Airways unsuccessfully tried to buy 33.5 percent of the carrier for $130 million.
Reports of an impending deal have been trickling in for the past few months, and as Avianform's Dirk Steiger told Air Cargo World last month, the rumor mill isn't done yet. He expects to see Qatar up its stake to 49 percent.
"It is obvious that they will want to increase their stake to ensure they have the maximum control over their investment and the future growth of the joint venture," he said.