Qatar Completes Purchase of Equity Stake in Meridiana

 - September 29, 2017, 11:55 AM

Qatar Airways has closed on its 49-percent acquisition of AQA Holding, the new parent company of Italy’s Meridiana. Previous sole shareholder Alisarda has kept 51 percent of the company. The deal follows Qatar’s failed attempt to take a stake in American Airlines, whose protestations over the plans eventually convinced Qatar management to drop the effort. Doha-based Qatar began negotiations over the Meridiana acquisition more than a year ago.

Now flying from Doha to Rome, Venice, Pisa and Milan, Qatar said the new partnership will further strengthen its ties to Italy while promoting job creation within the country. Qatar connects passengers to more than 150 destinations from its Italian outposts. Meridiana’s fleet consists of Boeing 737s, 767s and MD-82s.

Under the terms of a contribution and shareholders’ agreement signed in July 2016, Alisarda maintains the right to appoint the majority of the AQA’s board members. On Friday the board appointed Alisarda chairman Marco Rigotti as chairman of AQA Holding and Francesco Violante the new chairman of Meridiana. Violante served for 13 years as CEO of SITA until the end of June 2016.

In a statement, Qatar said it would announce a new business plan and appoint a new CEO for Meridiana “in due course.”

“We are delighted to formalize this important partnership, which will help increase Meridiana’s competitiveness in the European market," said Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker. “We look forward to working together to reinforce its position to provide even more connectivity to Italy and other European destinations, as well as those in the U.S. and beyond.”

Along with Meridiana, Qatar owns a 20-percent stake in British Airways parent IAG and 15 percent of South America’s Latam.