Turkish Airlines has been forced to deny rumours that Qatar Airways has acquired a 49% stake in the government-owned carrier. In a statement issued by the airline, a spokesperson said the rumours did “not represent the truth” and had been spread with the intent of damaging “our brand and our market value”. The airline threatened to take legal action against anyone who spread the rumour as truth.
Speculation has been mounting since late last year that the Turkish government was planning to sell a stake in the national flag carrier. Apparently, the rumour came about after Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was gifted a private Boeing 747 aircraft from the Qatari government.
Erdoğan recently made himself the head of Turkey’s sovereign wealth fund which owns and controls Turkish Airlines. The rumours gained traction when Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker said at a recent aviation conference that his airline was looking to invest in another airline. The airline that is being eyed up has not been named.
The Qatari government recently promised to invest as much as $15 billion in Turkey as the country’s budget deficit continues to widen.
Qatar Airways has already invested in a number of prominent airlines including a 20% stake in British Airways owner IAG, a near 10% stake in Cathay Pacific and a similar stake in Latin American airline LATAM. The airline recently announced it had acquired a 5% stake in China Southern airlines, although attempts to buy into American Airlines were spurned by the carrier late last year.
Qatar’s involvement with the 49% owned Air Italy has caused controversy after U.S. airline Delta accused Qatar Airways of “cheating” and using the airline to open fifth freedom routes between Europe and the United States.
The news comes as Qatar Airways weighs up its membership of the Oneworld alliance – Akbar recently said he was edging towards leaving the alliance although a decision won’t be made for another couple of months.