Etihad Airways said on on Thursday it has increased its stake in Virgin Australia Holdings to 19.9 per cent following a series of on-market purchases of Virgin Australia shares over recent weeks.
The Abu Dhabi-based airline now holds more than 515 million shares in its equity partner airline. It previously held 17.4 per cent stake in Virgin Australia.
Etihad sated that at 19.9 per cent, it has reached the threshold approved by Australia’s Foreign Investment Review Board in June 2013.
Commenting on the move, James Hogan, President and Chief Executive Officer of Etihad Airways, said in a statement that it reflects the carrier’s strong support for the business strategy and management team of Virgin Australia and its commitment to the Australian market.
“It also reflects the close working relationship between our two airlines and we look forward to strengthening its commercial foundations,” he said.
Etihad Airways and Virgin Australia signed a 10-year strategic partnership agreement in August 2010 including codesharing on flights, joint sales and marketing activities, and reciprocal earn-and-burn on their respective frequent flyer programmes.
“Increasing our equity in Virgin Australia will further enrich the commercial benefits which the partnership delivers for both airlines as well as increasing the benefits to Australian travellers and visitors to Australia,” Hogan stated, adding that the partnership continues to deliver significant revenue streams and other benefits to each airline.
The benefits, according to Etihad, include seamless connectivity to more than 40 codeshare destinations in Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia and Thailand and loyalty programme privileges.
Combined, Etihad Airways (25) and Virgin Australia (3) operate 28 flights a week between Abu Dhabi and Australia with passengers having access to a combined global network of more than 280 destinations.
In addition to holding codeshare partnerships with 47 airlines worldwide, Etihad holds equity investments in airberlin, Air Seychelles, Virgin Australia and Aer Lingus, will acquire 49 per cent of Air Serbia from January 2014, and, subject to regulatory approval, will acquire 24 per cent of India’s Jet Airways.
The carrier started flying to Australia in March 2007, when it launched services to Sydney. Flights to Melbourne and Brisbane followed in 2009. Etihad said it has carried more than 2.5 million passengers between Abu Dhabi and the three Australian gateways in the six-year period. The airline in future plans to operate services to Perth in Western Australia.