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Sun 14 Jan 2007 12:00 AM

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Boodai eyes US$300m flotation

It Is just over a year since the launch of Al Jazeera Airways, the low cost carrier based out of Kuwait.

It Is just over a year since the launch of Al Jazeera Airways, the low cost carrier based out of Kuwait. And so far it has been a spectacular success story, with revenues said to be running at 30% more than this time last year.

But my spies tell me that chairman Marwan Boodai has far bigger plans this year, and is considering listing the airline of the Kuwaiti Stock Exchange.

Any flotation would be worth in excess of US$300m and give the chairman the funds he needs to buy around ten new Airbus A320 planes. Boodai is hoping to become the Middle East’s number one low cost carrier, although at the moment that slot is held by Sharjah-based Air Arabia.

A source close to Boodai tells me: “The reason Air Arabia is doing better is because it flies to more destinations. We have realised it is actually a very simple equation: The more planes you have the more places you fly to, and the more money you make. If we can get our hands on around four more planes, we think we can really seriously increase our capacity. Right now our planes are on average about 80% full, so there is no problem regarding demand.”

Sounds simple doesn’t it?

Formula sponsor

With just two months to go before the start of the new Formula One season, the sponsorship merry-go-round is in full swing. And right now it seems everyone wants a slice of the Emirates Airline action. My pals in the sport tell me that the McClaren Mercedes team is set to finalise another year long deal, this time for around US$10m. Seems a decent price but the deal may yet fall through. I hear that Ferrari boss Jean Todt has been in direct contact with Emirates Airline vice president Mike Simon, to see if he can undercut the McClaren deal — offering Emirates a two-year deal for a cool US$14m.

Either way, I am told that Emirates is committed to supporting Formula One in some capacity for at least another year. Which team it will sponsor though, nobody quite knows.

A late entry into the sponsorship equation could be Red Bull Racing, which features David Coulthard as its star driver. Emirates executives have been impressed with the way Red Bull managed to steal a huge amount of publicity last season, despite failing to win a single race, and making just one appearance on the podium.

Branson in Bahrain

Talking of airlines, I hear that Virgin Atlantic is planning to announce a likely extension of its London to Dubai service, with flights then going onto Bahrain. The extension could be announced in March this year on the first anniversary of Virgin launching direct flights to Dubai.

A source tells me: “While the route has always been profitable, it also means that for several hours a day we have a multi-million dollar Airbus sitting at Dubai International Airport, doing absolutely nothing. If we can find a way to utilise that time with a trip to Bahrain, then why not?”

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