Qatar Air CEO rejects Indian carrier interest

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Qatar Airways chief executive officer Akbar al-Baker. (AFP/Getty Images)

Qatar Airways chief executive officer Akbar al-Baker. (AFP/Getty Images)

The CEO of Qatar Airways on Tuesday dismissed reports that the Gulf carrier was interested in investing in an Indian Airline.

Shares in India's SpiceJet rose by as much as 8.5 percent on Tuesday after the Times of India reported the budget carrier was close to selling a stake to a foreign carrier, which it said was most likely to be Qatar Airways.

But Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker said in a statement: “Qatar Airways categorically denies it is interested in investing in Spicejet or any other Indian airline. 

"This is pure speculation by individuals who deliberately want to spread such unfounded rumours to raise the stock value of their entities.

“India is a huge market and a potentially lucrative one. While we have expressed interest in expanding our presence in India, we will only be interested in any potential investment once we are sure regulations and laws are properly liberalised. 

"I can confirm we are currently not talking to any Indian airline.”

SpiceJet said in a later statement that it was premature to comment on the possibility of selling shares to any investor, but said some interest had been shown after a recent rule change allowing foreign carriers buy stakes in local airlines.

"[A] few investors have evinced interest in the company post government of India allowing FDI (foreign direct investment) in the civil aviation sector to foreign airlines," SpiceJet said in a statement to the Bombay Stock Exchange.

"It will be very premature to comment on the possibilities of any fresh equity issuance to such interested parties or confirm/deny names of any specific entity," the company added.

Qatar Airways CEO Akbar al-Baker said on Sunday he was not talking to any Indian carrier about buying a stake.

In September India allowed foreign airlines to buy a maximum 49 percent stake in local carriers, opening the prospect of its battered airlines getting fresh funding.

Jet Airways, India's second-largest carrier, is in talks with Abu Dhabi's Etihad Airways to sell a stake, it said earlier this month, in what could be the first deal in the sector following the rule change.

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