Cathay shares rally after Qatar Airways takes 9.6% stake

A Qatar Airways plane takes-off from the Hamad International Airport in Doha

Kingboard Chemical Holdings said the Hong Kong-listed company and its subsidiaries entered an agreement on Sunday to sell their shares in Cathay Pacific Airways to Qatar Airways for HK$5.16 billion ($662 million) in cash.

The investment is the latest in a series of acquisitions, all aimed at supporting Qatar Airways investment strategy.

With the purchase complete, Qatar will become the third biggest shareholder of Asia's largest worldwide airline.

In an unrelated incident, a Qatar Airways Doha-Bali flight was reportedly diverted to Chennai following a jealousy-fuelled on-board disturbance.

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The Doha carrier agreed to buy 9.61 percent of the total issued share capital $1.75 per share from Hong Kong industrial company Kingboard Chemical, according to a stock exchange filing.

The airline has been unable to fly to the previously lucrative markets of the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia as part of an airspace rights dispute with neighbours, and has been looking to invest elsewhere to broaden its reach. At the same time the move reasserts the company's global ambitions 4 1/2 months after American Airlines rejected an investment bid. "Cathay Pacific is a fellow Oneworld member and is one of the strongest airlines in the world, respected throughout the industry with massive potential for the future".

Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, His Excellency Mr Akbar Al Baker, said: "Qatar Airways is very pleased to complete its financial investment in Cathay Pacific".

Behind the Cathay Pacific stake is the battle for better access to China, which is expected to become the world's biggest aviation market within a decade.

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Complicating matters is the stake already held by Air China, long regarded by investors as a possible purchaser for the whole of Cathay.

Qatar Airways Cargo, the world's third largest global cargo carrier, serves more than 60 exclusive freighter destinations worldwide via its Doha hub and also delivers freight to more than 150 key business and leisure destinations globally.

Both airlines are members of the One World alliance.

Investment holding company Kingboard said it would recognise a gain of HK$800 million on the sale of its entire Cathay stake.

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At the same time, Cathay, while still Asia's biggest worldwide airline, has struggled to make the most of its Chinese status, finding itself squeezed by mainland carriers that boast a lower cost base and increasingly offer direct USA and European flights, cutting out the need for people to go via Hong Kong.

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