Qatar Airways, one of three Persian Gulf carriers that large U.S. carriers have criticized for unfair competition, is seeking to acquire a major stake in American Airlines Group Inc.
The Doha-based carrier intends invest at least $808 million in American, the U.S. carrier said Thursday in a regulatory filing. In a conversation between the chief executive officers of both companies, Qatar Air said it intended to buy about 10 percent of American, according to the filing.
The unsolicited approach sets a new stage in a battle in which American and other major U.S. airlines have accused Middle Eastern carriers of receiving government subsidies that give them an unfair advantage in international air travel. A 10 percent stake would place Qatar Air among American’s largest shareholders, along with Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc.
The proposed investment “does not alter American Airlines’ conviction on the need to enforce the Open Skies agreements with the United Arab Emirates and the nation of Qatar and ensure fair competition with Gulf carriers,” American said. The airline said it believes the U.S. government will continue to defend against “massive carrier subsidies that threaten the U.S. aviation industry and that threaten American jobs.”
American said anyone seeking to acquire at least 4.75 percent of the company’s stock is required to receive approval from its board. The company said it hadn’t received any such notice. Foreign ownership laws also limit a foreign voting interest to 24.9 percent, the Fort Worth, Texas-based airline said.
The shares rose 5.7 percent to $51.21 at 8:39 a.m. in New York pre-market trading.
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