IAG’s Walsh Says Qantas Taking Right Steps

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Published: June 12, 2012

Willie Walsh, the head of British Airways’ owner IAG, threw his backing behind Qantas chief Alan Joyce and said he was taking the right action to address the oneworld alliance partner’s international losses.

“I think it is a very good business. Alan knows the challenges he has to face and I think he is taking the right actions to address the challenges,” Walsh said on Tuesday.

He ruled out taking a stake in the airline.

“We have had a 25 percent stake in Qantas previously. The relationship was as strong without the equity as it was with the equity. Our issue is the relationship with Qantas and that is not going to be dependent on equity and to be honest I don’t think they are looking for equity,” he said.

Qantas said on Tuesday it had hired Macquarie Group and set up an internal team to defend against potential private equity bids. The Australian carrier lost a third of its value last week on warnings of its first loss since listing.

Joyce declined to comment on the airline’s situation at an IATA industry meeting in Beijing.

Speaking in his capacity as newly appointed chairman of the International Air Transport Association, he said “consolidation is a good thing in the industry”.

Walsh said he was not concerned about the prospect of commercial co-operation between Qantas and Emirates.

“We can work with one another (in the industry) where it makes commercial sense and I think there is a lot of potential commercial sense to Qantas and Emirates looking to work together. I would do exactly what he is doing if I were in that position.”

Walsh also ruled out investing in India’s airline industry should the sector open up to foreign airline investment as long as the government continued to subsidize state-owned Air India.

On Europe’s financial turmoil, Walsh said IAG, the owner of Spain’s Iberia as well as BA, had not been shaken directly by Spain’s banking crisis.

“It is the euro crisis that affects our business. The Spanish banks (situation) is a problem for the Spanish banks.”

He said IAG was carefully monitoring where it placed its cash and no excessive exposure to Spanish banks.

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