Qatar pulls out of Gulf Air


Qatar has pulled out of Gulf Air, while the three remaining partners - Bahrain, Oman and Abu Dhabi - will immediately inject around $80 million into the cash-strapped company, the airline's chairman has announced.

"Qatar has withdrawn from Gulf Air as a partner, but the three other partners will continue to support the airline," Shaikh Hamdan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan said after the airline's board meeting in Abu Dhabi.

"The three (remaining) partners have decided to support Gulf Air by contributing BD30 million ($80 million) immediately, in equal shares," he said.

"Different options are being studied to restructure the airline and make it profitable. We are confident it will become a profitable airline."

The three governments will consider compensating Qatar for its 25 per cent stake "in view of the company's general situation," Qatari Oil Minister Abdulla bin Hamad Al Attiyah said after the meeting.

A Bahraini official said earlier this month that Qatar and Oman, equal partners in Gulf Air with the governments of Abu Dhabi and Bahrain, had refused to pump up more capital to bail out the airline.

The refusal followed Gulf Air's request of the four owners during an emergency meeting in Abu Dhabi on April 22 to increase its capital by $272.5 million in a bid to overcome a crisis worsened by the September 11 .

This was followed by reports that Oman and Qatar would reconsider their stances and bail out the airline.

"It is sad Qatar is leaving, but I thank them and respect their decision," Shaikh Hamdan said.

"The legal and other implications of Qatar's pullout are being studied."

He said a newly-appointed chief executive, Australian James Hogan, would draw up a plan within three months to pull the airline out of trouble.

Hogan, previously chief executive of Ansett Airlines in Australia and BMI British Midlands Airways, will present the plan at another meeting of directors in August, he said. New routes will be added and others closed, Shaikh Hamdan said, adding he was confident of a turnaround in the carrier's fortunes after it is restructured.

The four owners had already injected $160 million into Gulf Air in May 2001. The airline's capital currently stands at $344 million. Oman and Qatar stressed "the need to apply the restructure plan to Gulf Air" drawn up by US aviation consultants Simet Hellielson and Eicher, an aviation source said.