Gulf Airline Qatar Airways is reportedly in talks to buy a 49% stake in Rwanda’s state carrier, RwandAir, reported Reuters. The Rwandan government currently owns a 99% stake in the national airline.
Akbar Al Baker, the Chief Executive Officer of Qatar Airways, said the airline was negotiating to buy a stake in the African airline.
“We are very tough negotiators … we will take our time to negotiate,” Mr. Al-Baker told reporters in the Qatari capital of Doha on Wednesday.
Although details on how much Qatar airways is spending on the stake currently remains undisclosed, the purchase will mean the government of Rwanda will remain with a controlling stake of 51 percent in the airline.
The announcement comes just weeks after the Doha-based carrier finalized a deal to buy a 60 percent stake in Rwanda’s new Bugesera International Airport, located in the capital Kigali. The airport would have a capacity for 10 million passengers.
“In Africa, there is a big demand for air travel which today is very poorly connected, so we always look at opportunities in our field to do investments similar to what we have done in the past,” said Mr. Al-Baker, said at a panel event at CAPA Qatar Aviation conference.
He added that Kigali’s attraction was its location, the stability of the country and a favorable business environment.
Qatar Airways already has holdings in Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific and Italy’s Meridiana and owns stakes in IAG, which owns British Airways, and Chile-based Latam Airlines. More recently, it bought a stake in China Southern Airlines.
The Gulf airline bought some of its holdings in other airlines after the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia banned it from their airspace owing to a regional political dispute. Qatar Airways has been forced to fly longer routes to avoid the blocked airspace of some of its neighbors.
It is expected that a stake in RwandAir would widen Qatar Airways’ reach and potentially help the airline bypass restrictions imposed on it by some Arab states.