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Qatar Air CEO studies Czech Airline

After the government in Prague said recently it would consider selling the struggling flag carrier over the next few months

Gulf News

Doha: Qatar Airways is interested in buying a minority stake in CSA Czech Airlines, the company’s top executive said Wednesday, after the government in Prague said recently it would consider selling the struggling flag carrier over the next few months.

“We are studying Czech Airlines,” Qatar Airways Chief Executive Akbar Al Baker told reporters in Doha. “We will study any opportunity to see if there are any good synergies with Qatar Airways.”

The Czech government received expressions of interest in the possible sale of its flag carrier from Korean Air and Qatar Airways and will consider selling the airline in April or May, the country’s prime minister said in December.

CSA is another European airline casualty that has suffered due to soaring competition from low cost carriers, a slowdown in business from the euro-zone crisis and high fuel prices. It has posted persistent losses amounting to billions of koruna and owns little property as most of its planes, hangars and related services have already been sold.

However, it may be attractive for bidders as it holds key routes and airport slots throughout the region.

Al Baker said he was not holding talks with CSA yet, but was “getting the data from the banks and entities responsible for arranging the privatization of Czech Airlines”.

Qatar Airways rallied behind US planemaker Boeing Co. (BA) Wednesday after a series of incidents involving its 787 Dreamliner this week raised safety concerns about the new lightweight jet. The Middle East airline is one of the largest customers of the carbon-composite aircraft with five in service and another 55 on order.

Usually a vocal critic of airline manufacturers, Akbar Al Baker, chief executive of the Doha-based carrier, said the Dreamliner would experience “teething problems” after a fuel leak and fire in Boston on two separate 787s owned by Japan Airlines Co. this week. “There will be small teething problems from time to time but this is foreseen with any new aircraft program,” he told reporters as Qatar Airway was set to fly its maiden commercial flight to London with a new clean burning gas-to-liquids (GTL) jet fuel.

Al Baker said the problems with the Dreamliner over the last few days were isolated issues affecting different parts of the aircraft.