Jim Armitage: Let’s welcome Qatar’s cash and ignore Little EnglandersComments Off on Jim Armitage: Let’s welcome Qatar’s cash and ignore Little Englanders
But we should welcome their cash and ignore the Little Englanders who will inevitably grumble at the “Arab invasion”.
Patriots looking to whinge should note that IAG was already 49% owned by American shareholders, with Brits only holding around a fifth. This was, then, hardly the storming of a British citadel.
Besides which, Willie Walsh’s big plan with IAG is to go around Europe snapping up other national flag carrier airlines. We can’t then complain when foreign airlines take an interest in IAG.
That plan of Willie’s has been a long time coming. Apart from BMI and Vueling, his consolidation strategy is still taxiing around the runway.
Even after he pulls in Aer Lingus, he has hardly blazed a trail through the fragmented European airline industry.
But with a ballsy new 10% shareholder on the register in the form of Qatar, perhaps that may change.
Walsh has been a big friend and ally to Qatar Airways and its boss, Akbar Al Baker, having sponsored its entry to the Oneworld alliance in 2013.
Meanwhile, the mess that was Iberia is now finally getting sorted, freeing up more management time to do big deals.
Qatar is proving a great ally to Britain, particularly London. This week alone has seen it splash out £3.7 billion on UK assets, adding them to its stakes in Sainsbury’s, Barclays and, of course, Harrods.
So far, these investments have all helped the businesses that received them, and have proved stable and long term.
They’ve also bolstered Qatar’s status in the global financial and political community. The IAG deal is likely to be a similar win-win.
Qatar will increase its influence in the European airline establishment, while IAG will get a decent foothold in the Middle East, the industry’s fastest-growing region. And don’t forget, little Ireland could benefit, too.
Who knows, once Aer Lingus joins the IAG fold, Bentley-driving sheikhs could become as common a sight in Dublin as Knightsbridge.