‘Emirates not looking for Qantas stake’

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Qantas Airways Reuters. Two Qantas passenger jets cross each other at Kingsford Smith International airport in Sydney in this file picture.

Sydney - Emirates is not planning to buy a stake in Australian airline Qantas, a report said Monday, despite the government moving to loosen foreign ownership restrictions on the struggling carrier.

Canberra wants to alter ownership rules to allow greater foreign investment in the national airline, to help Qantas raise much-needed capital and put it on a more even footing with domestic competitors.

But Emirates chairman Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed al-Maktoum said his company, the Middle East's largest airline whose profits surged 43

percent in 2013, had no plans to buy a stake.

“As we stated when the partnership began, neither airline is looking to take an equity stake in the other,” Sheikh Ahmed told the Australian Financial Review.

In December, Emirates president Tim Clark also ruled out throwing a financial lifeline to the embattled Australian flag carrier, which became an alliance partner a year ago, a move seen as vital to the sustainability of Qantas.

The partnership allows both carriers to combine operations for an initial period of five years, including coordinating ticket prices and schedules, and has opened up Qantas's lucrative Australian domestic network of more than 50 destinations to Emirates customers.

Qantas had lobbied for government help after a Aus$235 million (US$210 million) loss in the six months to December 31 and a decision to slash 5,000 jobs.

“We are facing some of the toughest conditions Qantas has ever seen,” chief executive Alan Joyce said at the time.

“Australia has been hit by a giant wave of international airline capacity, with a 46 percent increase in competitor capacity since 2009 Ä more than double the global increase of 21 percent over the same period.”

While its plea for a debt guarantee or Aus$3 billion unsecured loan was rejected, Prime Minister Tony Abbott agreed to relax the Qantas Sale Act, which limits foreign ownership in the airline to 49 percent.

While the bill passed the lower house of parliament in March, it still faces hurdles in the upper house Senate. - Sapa-AFP

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