Dubai: Qatar Airways prolonged courting of India’s biggest and most successful airline, IndiGo, all but came to an halt on Wednesday with the Indian carrier denying it is talks to sell a stake to the Doha-based airline.
Qatar Airways has being publicly flirting with IndiGo for some time with its Chief Executive Officer, Akbar Al Baker, often telling reporters, most recently in May, he is interested in buying as much as 49 per cent of the Indian low cost airline.
But IndiGo appeared to put an end to the flirtations on Wednesday releasing a statement that said it is not in talks to sell a stake to Qatar Airways.
“News reports about any possibility of Qatar Airways acquiring a stake in IndiGo are completely baseless. We wish to confirm that there is no discussion, leave alone negotiation about any potential equity or other finance investment by Qatar Airways in IndiGo,” the Indian airline said in an emailed statement.
The comments came a day after Qatar Airways released its own statement denying media reports that it was in talks to buy a commercial stake in another Indian airline, Gurgaon-based SpiceJet.
“Qatar Airways confirms that the only airline it is interested in is the Indian carrier Indigo,” the airline said in statement on its website on Tuesday.
However, Reuters reported a slightly different version of the quote, writing that the “only airline” Qatar Airways is “talking to is the Indian carrier IndiGo”
Qatar Airways declined to comment on Wednesday on IndiGo's statement telling Gulf News the airline had nothing to add beyond Tuesday’s statement. Al Baker has in past highlighted his admiration of IndiGo telling audiences that he is only interested in successful like Qatar Airways, seemingly including IndiGo in this category.
A possible stake purchase in any Indian carrier would give Qatar Airways an added boost in the highly profitable Indian market. It would also give the Doha-based airline an added edge in the fierce Gulf-Indian market against regional competitors Emirates, which first sealed deals to fly to India eight years before Qatar Airways launched, and younger Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways, which took an equity stake in India’s Jet Airways in 2013.
"The reality is that Qatar [Airways] sees IndiGo as the best managed and most financially successful of the Indian low cost carriers. If an opportunity did come up to invest, they have laid down a marker to indicate that they would be willing to do so," John Strickland, Director of UK-based aviation advisory JLS Consulting, told Gulf News by email.
But Qatar Airways’ attempts to woo IndiGo appear to have been somewhat fruitful. The Indian airline did include in Wednesday's statement that it is in “preliminary discussions with Qatar Airways to explore potential marketing arrangements based on mutual interests.” No further details of the talks were stated.