Qatar Airways joins Etihad in hunt for stake in India's carriers

Qatar Airways is interested in purchasing a stake in an Indian airline, its chief executive Akbar Al Baker said.

A new Boeing 747-8 freighter plane makes a turn onto the runway to make its first flight following delivery to its first customer, Cargolux, Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2011, in Everett, Wash. Boeing finally delivered the new freighter after resolving a contract dispute with Cargolux, a cargo hauler based in Luxembourg. The revamped cargo plane was supposed to go to Cargolux last month. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Qatar Airways is interested in buying a stake in an Indian airline, its chief executive Akbar Al Baker said yesterday.

"India is a huge market. India is a potentially lucrative market," Mr Al Baker told reporters in Doha. "Qatar Airways will be interested once we are sure the regulations and the laws are properly liberalised."

Mr Al Baker said he was not studying any specific purchase in India, where changes to rules curbing foreign direct investment from airlines have spurred interest in the market.

Arabian Gulf carriers including Abu Dhabi's Etihad Airways are looking to expand into the Indian market after the prime minister Manmohan Singh's government in September allowed foreign airlines to own as much as 49 per cent of India's carriers.

Mr Al Baker also confirmed that Qatar Airways had sold its 35 per cent stake in Luxembourg’s Cargolux Airlines International.

Luxembourg’s government announced last month that it bought the stake for US$117.5 million (Dh431.6m). Mr Al Baker also denied reports the airline was looking to buy a stake in Alitalia.Doha’s new airport, currently under construction, will receive its first passengers on April 1 and was expected to be fully open to all airlines in the second half of the year.

Reports said yesterday that the new airport would be renamed as Hamad International Airport.

* Agencies