PARIS: Abu Dhabi-based Etihad airlines is focused on taking a stake in India’s Jet Airways, its chief executive said yesterday amid media speculation it could invest in Italy’s troubled Alitalia.
When asked whether Etihad was interested in taking a stake in Alitalia, Etihad Ehief Executive James Hogan said that “At the moment I’m focused on India, transactions in India.”
He said Etihad has a strong relationship with Alitalia, and flies to Rome and Milan.
“We look at many businesses but we are primarily focused on Jet Airways,” said Hogan.
He said Etihad hopes to get the green light from Indian authorities in the coming weeks to acquire 24 percent of Jet Airways, which will give it a presence in a fast-growing market.
Jet Airways received conditional approval in July to sell the stake worth $349m.
Hogan was in Paris to meet with Air France-KLM executives, part of regular meetings following a code-sharing agreement reached last year.
“Our relationship is working well,” said Hogan.
“We meet every four or five months to talk about opportunities,” he added.
Talk has swirled for months about Etihad possibly taking a stake in Alitalia, with speculation intensifying following comments this week by Italian Transport Minister Maurizio Lupi. He called on Air France-KLM, which owns a 25-percent stake in Alitalia, to step up its investment in Alitalia or let it “seek another partner”.
Air France-KLM, which itself has been posting losses, has indicated recently it stands by its Italian partner but was going to be demanding about the financial and economic conditions of investments aimed at its recovery.
Air France-KLM declined to confirm media reports that its board will hold a meeting on Alitalia on Monday.