Qatar Airways to buy Rwandair stake to gain African foothold

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Qatar Airways plans to purchase a 49% stake in Rwanda's national carrier, stepping up its presence in the market weeks after taking a majority holding in the African country's new airport.

The Gulf airline is investing in Rwandair after identifying Africa as a market with significant potential, Akbar Al Baker, its chief executive officer, said in a briefing at the CAPA Qatar Aviation conference on Wednesday. The holding being negotiated will be its first in the continent after a string of deals elsewhere.

Qatar Airways agreed in December to acquire a 60% stake in Rwanda's new Bugesera International Airport, located south of the capital Kigali, where an existing hub is at full capacity. As part of the deal, the Gulf carrier will help build and run the $1.3 billion facility.

"It will be a very efficient hub in a very stable country in the heart of Africa," Al Baker said. "And we're going to take a stake in their national carrier because we see that Africa is another region that has huge growth potential."

The CEO said Qatar Airways remains intent on investing in InterGlobe Aviation, India's biggest airline, but is waiting for the right opportunity and the resolution of a clash between existing shareholders.

Al Baker praised China's response to the coronavirus outbreak, saying the Asian nation is doing a "fantastic job" in dealing with the epidemic, while suggesting that the global reaction has been "out of proportion".

The executive said he plans to attend next week's Singapore air show regardless of the outbreak, and won't be wearing a face mask.

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