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Qatar Airways to Take on Board 49 Percent of Italy’s Meridiana | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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A Qatar Airways Boeing 787 Dreamliner lands at Le Bourget airport near Paris, Reuters

In a move that could possibly augment the Italian carrier’s ability to stand the pace in European markets, Qatar Airways recently announced its plans on purchasing a 49 percent stake in Meridiana.

The agreement was reached at the Farnborough International Airshow and the deal will close in early October, subject to certain conditions, Qatar Airways said in a statement on Thursday.

No further details were given on the conditions of the deal or the price.

Meridiana had asked labor unions to agree to 900 job cuts – nearly half its workforce – as part of a planned partnership with Qatar Airways, a person involved in the talks had told Reuters earlier in February.

Last month, the Italian government, unions and Meridiana reached an agreement opening the way for the deal to go ahead.

The agreement included the loss of about 400 jobs and a 20 percent wage cut compared with those stipulated in national collective contracts for the sector, union officials said.

Though it is Italy’s second largest carrier, Meridiana is a small airline with a limited network to cities in Europe, Africa and some long-haul destinations and a fleet of dated aircraft that include McDonnell Douglas MD-80s and first-generation Boeing 737s.

“Today, an intense working period starts thanks to this agreement,” Meridiana Chairman Marco Rigotti said in a statement.

“I’m confident that all the Meridiana staff … will know how to take advantage of this important opportunity to create a new phase for our company,” said Rigotti.

The airline is operating under a government-sponsored restructuring plan to help turn the tables around.

“Partnering with Meridiana would only make Meridiana prosper, grow and actually increase the working population of Meridiana,” Qatar Airlines Chief Executive Akbar al-Baker said in April.

“But for the initial period there will be some pain on the part of employees,” he added.

Qatar Airways holds around a 15 percent stake in British Airways parent IAG and has been open to making further investments to help to expand its reach.

The Middle East carrier is also considering taking a 25-49 percent stake in Morocco’s Royal Air Maroc, Baker has said.