Qatar Airways may go public in 2011, says Al Baker

CEO of flag carrier says listing ‘could be this year’, is mulling launch of low-cost airline

Qatar Airways, the Gulf Arab state's flagship carrier, is considering an initial public offering (IPO) in 2011, its chief executive said on Tuesday.

"It could be this year. The more market share we gain, the timeline moves forward," Akbar Al Baker told reporters, adding that the airline had appointed advisors but declined to name them.

"It will definitely be earlier than people expect."

In December, the company indicated it was planning an IPO in early 2012 after three consecutive years of profit. The airline, half-owned by sovereign wealth fund Qatar Investment Authority, is close to finalising a 35 percent stake in Europe's largest all-freight airline Cargolux.

Al Baker said the airline is in its third consecutive year of profitability.

"We made [net profit] of $205m for the 2009/2010 fiscal year and over $230m in 2010/2011. For the current fiscal year, my revenue is more than $6.5bn. This is why we are preparing the IPO," he said.

The airline is also preparing to launch a low-cost carrier, Al Baker said. "We will open a [low-cost carrier] as soon as we feel that our market share is being taken away. But we have the name registered, we have the business plan ready and we have the aircraft configuration ready. We will launch very fast once I press the button."

Regional low-cost carriers include Al Jazeera, Air Arabia, Bahrain Air and flydubai.

Al Baker responded to reports that the airline was considering taking a stake in Portugal's troubled state airline TAP: "No, this is not true. It's a rumour."

In April, Qatar Airways signed a $1.3bn contract with US planemaker Boeing to buy five Boeing 777 planes to add to its existing 97-plane fleet. The airline already operates 25 777s.

Along with Gulf rivals Etihad and Emirates Airway, Qatar Airways is one of the largest buyers of new aircraft, with orders for 80 Airbus A350s, 60 Boeing 787s and five Airbus SAS A380s.

Qatar Airway said in March it would hire 11,500 new staff over the next three years to keep pace with an expansion plan that will see it serve 120 destinations by 2013.

The airline intends to grow its fleet to more than 120 aircraft during the same period.

Qatar, the world's largest exporter of liquefied natural gas, is building a new airport with the capacity to accommodate 50 million passengers per year.

It will host the 2022 football World Cup tournament.

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Posted by: Ronald Ramos

Qatar Airways should diversify into 5 star Hotels Chain ranging from Businessman Hotels and Resort Hotels so that it will boost the global image of the airline. I hope that they will get a foreign hotel brand and secure a local brand in Qatar that will a global hotel chain to showcase the world-class brand of Qatar Airways Group.

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