Etihad reviewing its European investment strategy

I have written plenty of times about Etihad Airways flawed investment strategy in loss-making European Airlines.

As well as expensive these investments are a genuine drain on management resources and a distraction from the primary function of running an airline.

Well it may be that action is now being taken as Reuters and Handlesblatt are both reporting that the airline (or its owner?) is reviewing the strategy of investing in European airlines and is seeking an exit in a shake-up that could lead to the departure of CEO James Hogan.

Etihad saw a strategy to take equity stakes in carriers like Air Berlin, Alitalia and Air Serbia as a way to expand its European network.

Over the weekend Etihad announced it was cutting jobs without getting into specific numbers. Emirates is doing the same.

Hogan’s expected departure, which could come within the next three months according to the sources, and the Etihad restructuring was first reported by German daily Handelsblatt, which cited several sources as saying Etihad wanted to start unwinding its European investments in January.

“It is our long-standing policy never to comment on rumour or speculation,” Etihad said in a statement.

Etihad last week finalised a deal for Air Berlin, in which it owns a 29 percent stake, to lease 38 crewed planes to Lufthansa. It is also buying Air Berlin’s Niki unit and placing it into a new leisure airline joint venture with tour operator TUI.

The measures will halve Air Berlin’s fleet, leaving it with just 75 planes focused on long-haul flying from Berlin and Duesseldorf.

Alitalia is considering job cuts and grounding planes, and Italian media have previously suggested that Lufthansa could become an investor in the struggling carrier, something that both have denied.

Lufthansa already controls a number of European airlines including Austrian, Swiss and Brussels.

There are clearly changes coming at both Emirates and Etihad. The winner, for now, in the ME3 appears to be Qatar where the new airport has given the airline all the room that it needs for continued expansion.

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