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Etihad Airways takes stake in Aer Lingus
Abu Dhabi's Etihad Airways takes nearly 3 percent stake in Irish carrier Aer Lingus
By The Associated Press

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) ' Fast-growing Etihad Airways has taken a nearly 3 percent stake of Aer Lingus as part of a strategy to build closer bonds with the Irish carrier, the Abu Dhabi-based airline said Tuesday.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. But it appears part of a wider Etihad effort to seek shares in smaller carriers to gain a possible edge in its rivalries with Gulf carriers Emirates and Qatar Airways.

Etihad said Tuesday the 2.987 percent stake in Aer Lingus reflects a "desire to forge a commercial partnership with the Irish national carrier."

Etihad in recent months has bought large stakes in Air Berlin and Air Seychelles in a bid to challenge Emirates and Qatar Airways. Etihad operates 10 flights a week from its Abu Dhabi hub to Dublin.

The head of Qatar Airways, however, said the carrier is not currently looking to acquire another airline.

Qatar Airways Chief Executive Officer Akbar al-Baker said the airline is focused on building its own business, and doesn't want to take on the financial problems of restructuring a weaker carrier. Al-Baker was in Dubai for a travel expo.

State-owned Qatar Airways competes for long-haul international passengers with Dubai-based Emirates airline and Etihad Airways.

Last month, Etihad said its sales jumped 28 percent to $989 million in the first quarter of the year as it pushed ahead with its rapid expansion.

In February, Aer Lingus reported a strong growth in profits for 2011 despite the country's economic downturn. The Dublin-based carrier says in a statement Tuesday its full-year net profit rose 66 percent to euro71.2 million ($95.6 million). Sales rose 6 percent to euro1.29 billion ($1.73 billion).

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