Why Does Qatar Airways Want to Invest in American Airlines?

Qatar Airways plans to buy at least 4.75% of American Airlines — and perhaps up to 10% of the company’s stock. Yet its motives are unclear, even to American’s management.

Qatar Airways wants to buy a piece of the biggest airline in the world. In a securities filing last week, American Airlines stated that the fast-growing Middle Eastern airline plans to buy up to 10% of its stock.

This puts American in an awkward position, because it is part of a lobbying group — along with Delta Air Lines and United Continental — that seeks to limit Qatar Airways’ growth in the U.S. Indeed, it’s not clear what Qatar Airways is up to with its latest minority investment move.

Qatar Airways likes having partners
In recent years, Qatar Airways has shown more interest in partnering with other airlines than its larger regional rival Emirates.

For example, Qatar Airways is the only one of the three big Persian Gulf carriers that belongs to a major airline alliance. It joined the Oneworld group (which also includes the likes of American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines, LATAM, and Qantas) in late 2013.

Qatar Airways has also accumulated a 20% stake in IAG, the holding company that owns British Airways and Iberia (both fellow members of the Oneworld alliance). This shareholding arrangement paved the way for a revenue-sharing joint venture agreement implemented last fall. It has also led to IAG defending Qatar Airways’ right to grow in Europe…

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