Abu Dhabi carrier Etihad Airways has said that it is comfortable with the process of review being conducted by Switzerland’s Federal Office of Civil Aviation (FOCA) regarding an agreement to acquire 33.3 per cent of Swiss carrier Darwin Airline.
Etihad was advised in June by FOCA that changes to the agreement would be needed to secure regulatory approval, the airline said in a statement.
Since then it has been working with FOCA and is amending the agreement to ensure it complies with regulations, it added.
FOCA said last week that Darwin, rebranded as Etihad Regional, has a deadline of September 30 to make the required changes, after which the agreement will undergo a second review.
“After looking at the documents, the FOCA concludes that the proposed mechanisms of cooperation can lead to control of Darwin by Etihad, and thus would be incompatible with statutory provisions,” the agency said in a statement.
Etihad President and CEO James Hogan clarified that the Abu Dhabi carrier welcomes the move.
“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 per cent investment in the airline will be retained by Swiss investors and no Swiss interests will be compromised by Etihad’s investment, the statement said.
“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 added.
The Abu Dhabi-based carrier bought the stake in Darwin in November last year as part of a growing equity portfolio in global airlines. It currently owns stakes in airberlin, Air Seychelles, Virgin Australia, Aer Lingus, Jet Airways and Air Serbia.