Swiss Airline Darwin Waters Down Etihad Deal To Get Green Light

Etihad has agreed to relinquish a role in the appointment of top executives at Darwin.



Etihad Airways, which plans to buy a third of Switzerland’s Darwin Airline, has agreed to relinquish a role in the appointment of top executives in order to secure approval for the deal, the Swiss carrier said on Tuesday.

Maurizio Merlo, chief executive of Darwin, now rebranded Etihad Regional, said he now expected a green light from Swiss authorities by the end of the month.

Switzerland’s Federal Office of Civil Aviation, known as BAZL, warned in August that the planned purchase of a 33.3 per cent stake in Darwin Airline to Abu-Dhabi based Etihad did not meet legal requirements to be approved.

Merlo said the BAZL’s principal concern had been the proposed control Etihad would have in the running of the business. He said this had now been resolved.

In the previous proposal, Etihad had sought a monitoring agreement over the airline’s quality and safety, as well as a role in the appointment of top management. Merlo said Etihad had waived these requests.

According to Swiss rules, the majority of Darwin shares must be owned by Swiss or EU citizens, who must also effectively control the airline.

“We have done this change,” Merlo said at a media event in Zurich. “We have provided BAZL the new version of contract and for now we are waiting for the reply from BAZL.”

Asked when he thought the deal will be approved, Merlo said: “According to our indications, it should be by the end of this month.”

A BAZL spokeswoman said the agency had received all the necessary documents and that it expects to make a decision by the end of the month if the process runs as normal.

Etihad is scooping up stakes in airlines across the globe to expand its route network and boost traffic through its Abu Dhabi hub. So far, it has looked to buy stakes in eight airlines, including five European airlines — Air Berlin, Aer Lingus, Air Serbia, Darwin Airline and the latest, Alitalia.

The European Commission earlier this year asked Germany to look into whether Etihad exercises too much control at Air Berlin, Germany’s second largest airline, which is loss-making and heavily indebted.