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MENAFN - AFP - 05/05/2014
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(MENAFN - AFP) Qatar Airways has become 100-percent state-owned after the government bought out private investors, including a former prime minister, its chief executive Akbar Al-Baker said Monday.

Al-Baker said the acquisition took place last year, shortly after a political shake-up in which Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem was removed from the post of prime minister.

The airline became "100-percent government-owned at the end of July" when 50 percent of the company was purchased from the investors including Sheikh Hamad, Al-Baker told reporters in Dubai.

"It was not only Hamad bin Jassem; there were other shareholders," he said at the Arabian Travel Market.

He declined to comment on the motives for the buyout and said he did not know how much the ex-premier, who was relieved of his post when emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani abdicated unexpectedly in favour of his son Sheikh Tamim in June 2013, had received for his stake.

Qatar Airways, he said, would start revealing its results now that the carrier was government owned.

"I don't think the government has any issues for us to start announcing our profits" following the buyout, he said. "Once our last financial year audit is complete, we will say how much money we've made."

Al-Baker did not give details of Qatar Airways' results but said the company was "very efficiently run".

During Sheikh Hamad's reign, Qatar adopted an ambitious foreign policy, until last year's unexpected political shake-up.

Qatar Airways, along with Dubai's Emirates and Abu Dhabi's Etihad, have snatched a sizable share of the long-haul travel sector, turning their home cities into major hub on the routes to Asia and Australasia.

The three are major clients of aircraft manufacturers, with extensive lists of orders from Boeing and Airbus.

Al-Baker said the recent soft opening of Doha's new airport should allow the carrier to expand unhindered, noting "growth was blocked by the capacity of the current airport" in Doha.

He added the much-delayed Hamad International Airport, which opened last week, has an annual capacity to handle 30 million passengers which can be pushed to 45 million passengers if needed.

The new international airport, built at a cost of 15.5 billion (11 billion euros) and named after the former emir, welcomed its first commercial flight on Wednesday.

It had originally been scheduled to open last April, but the date was pushed back after it failed to meet new security standards.

Initially, the facility will only be open to 10 airlines with other carriers, including Qatar Airways, expected to use it from May 27.

Al-Baker also complained of airspace congestion in the Gulf region, saying limiting space for commercial carriers in favour of military use is "not conducive" to the aviation sector.

Major Gulf carriers are trying with governments and regulators "to open more air space to commercial flights," he said.



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