By Andy Sambidge
James Hogan says he understands need for 'absolute clarity' over agreement for 33.3% stake
Etihad Airways said on Sunday it is comfortable with the process of review by Switzerland’s Federal Office of Civil Aviation (FOCA) concerning an agreement to acquire 33.3 percent of Darwin Airline, which was rebranded as Etihad Regional.
Etihad Airways said in a statement that it was advised in June by FOCA that changes to the agreement would be needed to secure regulatory approval and airline chief James Hogan has welcomed moves to clarify the situation.
Since June the Abu Dhabi-based airline has been working with FOCA and is amending the agreement to ensure it complies with regulations, a statement issued by the carrier said.
On Thursday, it was reported that FOCA said Etihad Regional has until September 30 to make changes to the agreement, which would then undergo a second review.
FOCA examined whether the deal complied with rules that the majority of Darwin shares must be owned by Swiss or EU citizens, who must also effectively control the airline.
On Sunday, Etihad president and CEO Hogan said: “We are comfortable with FOCA’s review and understand and support the need for there to be absolute clarity that Etihad Airways does not, cannot and will not exercise control over Darwin Airline.
“While our initial agreement has required amendment, we are seeking, as any minority investor would, protection for our investment. This is about protection, not control.
“Etihad Regional was, and will continue to be, majority owned by Swiss shareholders and operated by Swiss management.”
A 66.7 percent investment in the airline will be retained by Swiss investors and no Swiss interests will be compromised by Etihad Airways’ investment, the statement added.
“We have a high regard for the management of the business and its capability to build a stronger regional airline that increases competition and choice for air travellers, especially in Switzerland,” Hogan said.
Last November, Etihad announced it had bought a one-third stake in Swiss regional airline Darwin Airline, with it continuing to be operated by Darwinand carrying the Swiss flag.