Etihad Airways has confirmed it now holds a 10% stake in Virgin Australia, following recent approval by the Australian Government's Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) to double its previous 5% share.
"We are very pleased to have reached this threshold" said Etihad Airways President and Chief Executive Officer James Hogan, in a statement issued by the airline.
“We support the management strategy of Virgin Australia and will continue to work closely with them on ways to improve our business."
Hogan reiterated that Etihad Airways was not interested in becoming a majority shareholder or taking control of Virgin, insisting that "our small equity stake reflects the strong working relationship of both airlines and again demonstrates our enduring commitment to the Australian market."
The move comes ahead of this week's expected announcement of a codeshare deal between Qantas and Emirates.
In June this year Etihad paid an estimated A$37.5m for an initial 3.96% slice in Virgin Australia’s domestic operations, and even then Etihad CEO James Hogan admitted that "At a point in time, we would like to take it to a minimum of 10 percent, if we get the necessary approvals."
Other primary stakeholders in Virgin Australia include Sir Richard Branson’s 26% shareholding and a 19.9% stake held by Air New Zealand.
“We think John Borghetti has done a great job" Hogan told The Australian earlier this year.
"He’s repositioned the airline strongly, our partnership is driving considerable benefits for both of us on the kangaroo route and this just ties us in.”
Etihad's partnership with Virgin Australia already includes codesharing flights and reciprocal 'earn and burn' on their respective frequent flier programs, with the airlines also planning to open shared international lounges at Sydney and Melbourne International Airports.
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About David Flynn
David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.