Qatar Airways expects its bid for a stake in Moscow’s Vnukovo airport to be accepted by the end of 2019.
The Russian capital’s third largest airport has, for some time, been on the radar of the Qatari flag carrier. Talks between the airline and the co-owners of the airport were reported to have taken place in the spring of 2018.
According to ch-aviation, Qatar Group Chief Executive Akbar al Baker is now pushing for an outcome. He told Reuters the airline hopes to land the 20% stakeholder deal “sometime before the end of the year.”
If the deal is successful, Vnukovo will be Qatar’s next target in its quest for air supremacy.
Additionally, the airline’s servicing of the Vnukovo route will allow passengers the option of avoiding Moscow’s Sheremetyevo and Domodedovo airports, which are already heavily congested.
“We see huge potential to grow the airport to bring more traffic,” said Mr. Al-Baker. “To intensify traffic, to grow there, to increase the duty-free footprint.”
The company initially revealed plans to acquire a quarter of the stake in Vnukovo in March 2018. The dapifer of the Qatar Airways deal were given eight weeks to finalize the deal. But the parties involved failed to settle.
The airport is owned by the Russian State, Russian businessman Vitaly Vantsev and various other wealthy Russians. Two years before Qatar showed up, these parties signed a framework of agreement to consolidate the airport’s assets.
The private investors now hold a 75% stake in the airport and the State owns the rest. It is not yet clear into whose stake Qatar will bite.
Vnukovo airport is Moscow’s oldest airport. It is located 28 km (17 mi) southwest of the Russian capital, and is one of four major airports that serve the city. By 2015, it had completed an ambitious 12-year expansion program costing hundreds of millions of dollars.
The airport’s main destinations are found within the CIS group of countries.
For the time being, Qatar Airways flies to Moscow’s Domodedovo airport (with 21 weekly frequencies, according to ch-aviation.com).
A deal in the making
Qatar Airways’ plans to purchase a chunk of the Moscow airport were made public in 2018. No financial details were released at the time. But Russian Aviation Insider reported that the airline was expected “to buy a 25% stake” in the airport.
Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund, the Qatar Investment Authority, already owns a 25% share of St Petersburg’s Pulkovo airport and London’s Heathrow.
Russian Aviation Insider quoted Al-Baker as saying: “As we celebrate the Year of Culture between Russia and the State of Qatar, I am very pleased to announce the potential acquisition of up to 25 per cent of Moscow’s Vnukovo International Airport.
Al-Baker and Mr Vanstev then signed a Memorandum of Understanding, but the deal subsequently stalled.
It is hoped any Qatar Airways deal that transpires will “complement” the growing strength of the bond between Qatar and Russia.
This latest move comes on the crest of the airline’s wave of aggressive long-term investments. The carrier owns a 50% stake in Air Italy (currently under investigation), 5% in China Southern Airlines and 10% in Chilean airline LATAM.
Of the latest round of talks with the Russians, Al-Baker told Russian Aviation Insider,
“Such an investment will complement the strong ties we have already established with the country, with our launch of direct services to St Petersburg late last year, as well as our triple-daily flights to Moscow. All our investments are part of our existing expansion strategy.”