Abu Dhabi-based carrier Etihad Airways has nearly doubled its stake in Virgin Australia Holdings (VA) to 19.9 per cent - similar to that held by Singapore Airlines - following a series of market purchases of VA shares in recent weeks.
This takes the total number of shares held by Etihad in VA to over 515 million. Previously, the Middle Eastern carrier had a stake of 10.5 per cent. At 19.9 per cent, Etihad has hit the threshold approved by Australia's Foreign Investment Review Board in June this year. Air New Zealand is the biggest shareholder in Brisbane- based VA with 23 per cent.
"It reflects our strong support for the business strategy and management team of Virgin Australia and our enduring commitment to the Australian market," said James Hogan, CEO of the national airline of the United Arab Emirates
"It also reflects the close working relationship between our two airlines and we look forward to strengthening its commercial foundations."
Etihad has also been investing in other airlines, such as airberlin, Air Seychelles and Aer Lingus. In January next year, it will acquire 49 per cent of Air Serbia, and is set to snap up a 24 per cent of India's Jet Airways, subject to regulatory approvals.
In August 2010, Etihad and VA inked a 10-year strategic partnership agreement which spans code-sharing on flights, joint sales and marketing activities, and reciprocal frequent flyer programmes.
"The strategic partnership continues to deliver significant revenue streams and other benefits to each airline. Increasing our equity in VA 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," added Mr Hogan.
Etihad operates 25 flights a week between Abu Dhabi and Australia, while VA operates three per week.
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