Qatar Airways has increased its stake in International Airlines Group (IAG), the parent company of British Airways, to 15.01%, the Middle Eastern carrier has revealed.
The Gulf carrier had acquired a 9.99% stake in IAG in January 2015, for about £1.2bn (€1.53bn, $1.73bn) and became the largest shareholder in the London-based airline. It had then increased its stake over the years and as of April 2016, held just under 12% in IAG.
Qatar Airways added that it "may consider increasing its stake further over time within the allowable limits". Under current EU rules, foreign investors can only own a 49% stake in European airlines.
The investment will allow the Gulf carrier to increase its influence over the FTSE 100 airline giant, as it is now a significant minority shareholder. It will also deepen Qatar Airway's bet on the lucrative trans-Atlantic market between the US and London.
"[IAG] is very well positioned in Europe on the back notably of its attractive exposure to the transatlantic segment, its leading positions at the London and Madrid hubs and the future benefits from the acquisition of Aer Lingus," Qatar Airways said.
Industry sources said the Gulf carrier and IAG seemed like they were already forging closer ties. While Qatar Airways is now made a part of the Oneworld Alliance, of which BA is the founding member, it has also teamed up with BA for cargo business. In addition to this, BA said last week that it would introduce a direct non-stop flight to Qatar's capital, Doha.
Akbar Al Baker, the chief executive of the Gulf carrier, said: "We have been very happy with our investment in IAG, from a financial, commercial and strategic perspective. The relationship formed has helped to deliver on our westbound strategy. Furthermore, IAG's proven management and strategic direction have been the basis on which we will continue to forge a long-term relationship," he said, according to a report in the Telegraph.
IAG was formed in January 2011 after a merger between British Airways and Spanish airline Iberia. The company's headquarters are based in London, UK, and registered in Madrid, Spain. IAG also owns Spanish discount airliner Vueling and Irish flag carrier Aer Lingus.