Qatar Airways is selling its 35 percent stake in financially troubled Cargolux that it had acquired less than 18 months ago following a row over the future direction of the world’s 10th largest cargo airline.
The Arab Gulf carrier’s acquisition of the stake in Luxembourg-based Cargolux from the Luxembourg government and other shareholders was part of a drive to become one of the world’s top cargo operators by 2015.
But Qatar Airways Chief Executive Akbar al-Baker decided to pull out following a disagreement over the appointment of a chief executive during a meeting in Luxembourg Friday of Cargolux’s strategy committee.
The two sides also disagreed over the future strategy for the carrier, which lost $18.3 million in 2011 and is struggling to cut costs and boost productivity to compete with emerging Middle Eastern and Asian cargo airlines in a depressed global air freight market.
Cargolux shareholders, including Luxembourg flag carrier Luxair, today expressed their “full confidence and support” for interim CEO Richard Forson and the airline’s management “as they take the airline forward through this difficult phase of restructuring.”
Around 1,500 Cargolux workers demonstrated outside the Luxembourg parliament on November 13 to protest threatened job cuts. Unions have also voiced fears that Qatar Airways wanted to raise its stake to over 50 percent as part of a planned $750 million recapitalization of Cargolux in January.
Cargolux was reported to be mulling transferring 10 of its 14 Boeing freighters to Qatar Airways and wet-leasing them back. It was also expected to relocate its maintenance unit, which employs 450 people, to Qatar Airways’ Doha hub.
Russia’s Volga-Dnepr, owner of fast-growing AirBridgeCargo, is being tipped as a potential investor in Cargolux.