Qatar Airways set to start buying shares in American Airlines

21:20 06/07/2017
Qatar Airways is to press on with plans to build a stake of up to 4.75 percent in American Airlines (AAL.O) in the near future, despite the "categorical" opposition of the U.S. company's management, Qatar Chief Executive Akbar al-Baker said on Thursday.

The state-owned carrier notified American Airlines last month that it was interested in buying up to 10 percent of its shares but would not exceed 4.75 percent without the approval of American's board.

"We will be able to start buying shares in the open market soon, depending of course on what is the share value," al Baker told reporters in Dublin, where he was launching a new Qatar Airways route.

American Airlines aircraft are parked at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Washington, U.S., August 8, 2016. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/File Photo

The share purchases will start as soon as Qatar receives regulatory approval, he said.

However, American said in a regulatory filing dated June 22 that company rules prohibit anyone "from acquiring 4.75 percent or more" of the company's shares in issue without prior board approval.

Shares in American were up 0.5 percent at $51.53 at 1342 GMT on Thursday, valuing the company at over $25 billion.

The move by Qatar Airways would expand its investments to North America at a time when Qatar is embroiled in the region's worst diplomatic crisis in years and is locked in an airspace rights row with three other Gulf states.

Qatar has no intention of going above 10 percent, al Baker said.

Al-Baker said American's CEO Doug Parker told him at an airline conference in Mexico last month that he was against Qatar's planned investment and that he would not recommend that the board approve the purchase of a stake of over 4.75 percent.

"He categorically told us that he was not interested, that he would not suggest to his board to allow us. However, I told him we can still take 4.75 percent and we will do that," al Baker said.

"Maybe once we have taken that 4.75 and they see the value that Qatar Airways brings to the table for them that they will reconsider," he said.