Emirates: Any Etihad merger plan is up to shareholders

By BLOOMBERG

HONG KONG • Emirates Airline said any merger plan with Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways PJSC is for shareholders to decide and no such development is likely any time soon.

“That is in the hands of the shareholders,” Emirates president Tim Clark said in a Bloomberg Television interview yesterday in Sydney. “On the short-term, medium-term horizon, I would say no.”

Local press reports have said United Arab Emirates’ ruling families that control Emirates and Etihad have held talks about possibly combining the two. The Abu Dhabi carrier posted a loss of US$1.87 billion (RM7.48 billion) in 2016 following the failure of an alliance-building strategy that saw it pour cash into Air Berlin plc and Alitalia SpA, both of which later filed for insolvency. Emirates chairman Sheikh Ahmed Saeed Al Maktoum said in May there have never been talks with Etihad about a merger.

Emirates is working with Etihad to look at areas of common ground without mixing up the brands and entering into competing areas, Clark said. Emirates, the world’s biggest long-haul carrier, posted a net income of 4.11 billion dirhams (RM4.4 billion) in the 12 months ended March 31 as higher oil prices spurred a revival in travel in oil-based Middle Eastern economies.

While Clark said bookings this summer are “very, very strong” and that ticket prices have risen from last year, the carrier’s outlook for the year is facing the double whammy of the rising dollar as well as rising fuel costs leaving its outlook “cloudy”.