Etihad’s completion today of a 10% equity buy into Virgin Australia Holdings doesn’t of itself address the issue of whether, where, how or when the Australian flag carrier will acquire more working capital.
Then again, it wasn’t intended to. But it remains an important question for those who might wonder whether Virgin Australia can grow faster, through its network of alliances which comprises commercial agreements with Singapore Airlines, Air New Zealand and Delta and Etihad, than the much larger Australian flag carrier of Qantas/Jetstar has its market share diluted in what in recent times continues to be a period of unprecedented growth in the international market to and from Australia.
This is the Etihad statement:
Etihad Airways today confirmed its equity stake in Virgin Australia Holdings has now reached 10 per cent.
This represents 221 million shares which have been bought on the open market over recent months.
Six weeks ago Etihad Airways received Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) approval to increase its holding from 5 per cent to 10 per cent.
Etihad Airways President and Chief Executive Officer, Mr James Hogan, said: “We are very pleased to have reached this threshold.
“We support the management strategy of Virgin Australia and will continue to work closely with them on ways to improve our business.
Mr Hogan again reiterated that Etihad Airways was not interested in becoming a majority shareholder or taking control of Virgin Australia.
“Our small equity stake reflects the strong working relationship of both airlines and again demonstrates our enduring commitment to the Australian market,” he said.
Etihad Airways and Virgin Australia have developed a highly successful, multi-tiered partnership that includes code-sharing on flights, joint marketing initiatives and reciprocal earn-and-burn on their respective frequent flier programs.
Mr Hogan said he was confident the equity stake would lead to more revenue generating opportunities.
“This further cements our commercial partnership as we continue to explore areas of even closer co-operation such as operational synergies, shared IT infrastructure and other forms of cost sharing efficiency.”
What Etihad says is worth keeping in mind if as widely expected, its UAE rival Emirates announces a commercial deal with Qantas this week.