Qatar Airways buys a chunk of Cathay Pacific.

Qatar Airways is now the proud owner of 9.61% of Cathay Pacific, expanding its airline investment portfolio. The shares will be purchased from Hong Kong’s Kingboard Chemical Holdings at a price of roughly $661 million. That appears to be a small premium to the shares closing price on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange last Friday. The transaction comes after Qatar’s most recent effort – an investment in American Airlines – was rebuffed.

This time around getting access to the shares came somewhat easier. Kingboard has been looking to offload its holdings since the summer and isn’t particularly keen on the way Swire (the primary shareholder) is running things. Which isn’t too hard to believe given recent performance.

Cathay Pacific is a fellow oneworld member and is one of the strongest airlines in the world, respected throughout the industry and with massive potential for the future. – Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, His Excellency Mr Akbar Al Baker

Qatar Airways also owns a 20% stake in IAG (parent of British Airways, Iberia, Aer Lingus and Vueling), a 10% stake in LATAM, and a 49% stake in Meridiana. The company’s stated investment goals involve a mostly passive presence. Qatar says it chooses solid performing airlines and lets them run as normal. It is less clear that the carrier adheres to that plan. Some LATAM aircraft are now flying in the Qatar fleet, for example, while the future of Meridiana’s route network remains unclear. Still, the approach is far more likely to be successful than Etihad’s plan to bail out obviously struggling airlines.

These basic tweets were the totality of Cathay’s initial statement on the deal.

That Qatar Airways had a formal press release and Cathay Pacific did not suggests that there is still some coordination necessary to bring the new shareholder into the mix.

It will also be interesting to see if Qatar Airways and Cathay Pacific coordinate more tightly in loyalty programs or seek permission for joint venture operations on various routes. There is significant potential to “fight back” against the Qantas/Emirates partnership and to otherwise improve capacity and flow in some markets should the two choose such (and receive governmental approvals).

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. can you explain what is the point of picking up a minority stake in an airline? They assumingly will not have any say in day to day operations, when Swire+Air China still own ~75% of the company?

    1. Likely very little control over day-to-day, but still some influence. It could help shift some connecting passenger flow. It could facilitate purchasing negotiations with suppliers (though probably not based on other efforts on that front). And it could just be a financial investment.

      Then again, Delta is a minority shareholder in Virgin Atlantic and is basically running the carrier. That won’t happen here, of course, but just being a minority shareholder doesn’t mean that input is nil.

  2. I hope they treat their crews better. There are some horror stories out there from Cathay Pacific. Basically, you sign a contract and they change it on you once you are on the property, among other things. Oh well, the public only sees the fares and extras. Too bad.

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