Etihad Raises Virgin Australia Stake To 10%

The Abu Dhabi-based carrier has doubled its stake in the Australian carrier but no plans for a majority.

Abu Dhabi’s flagship carrier Etihad Airways has raised its stake in Virgin Australia to 10 per cent through open market purchases, the state airline said in a statement on Sunday.

Etihad, founded eight-years ago, received approval from Australia’s Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) to increase its stake from five per cent to 10 per cent, it said in the statement.

Etihad has already bought stakes in three other carriers — Aer Lingus, Air Seychelles and Air Berlin — in a push to chase the big Gulf state-backed airlines such as Dubai’s Emirates and Qatar Airways.

Based on Virgin Australia’s current market value, the stake is worth about $100 million. The airline had previously said it was keen to increase its Virgin Australia stake to at least 10 per cent.

But the airline does not plan to acquire a majority stake in Virgin Australia, Etihad’s President and Chief Executive Officer James Hogan said in the statement.

Virgin Australia is 26 per cent owned by Richard Branson and 20 per cent by Air New Zealand.

Etihad began flying to Australia in 2007 and along with Virgin Australia they operate 24 flights a week between Abu Dhabi and Australia.