Etihad Airways, the United Arab Emirates carrier said Tuesday it has acquired a 2.987 per cent stake in Irish airline Aer Lingus.
Etihad said the “purchase reflected its desire to forge a commercial partnership with the Irish national carrier,” adding that “a possible partnership could produce significant commercial benefits for both airlines.”
The airline did not give financial details of the deal nor say where it had acquired the shares from. The Irish government holds 25 percent of Aer Lingus but earlier this year said it wanted to sell its stake.
Low-cost pioneer Ryanair has a 29-percent stake in its Irish rival.
Aer Lingus said in a separate statement that Etihad had agreed not to increase its holding in the company without prior discussions between the two.
Additionally, it said that the two airlines were discussing the possibility of code-sharing, talks which might be extended to include shared purchases so as to save costs.
Etihad operates 10 flights a week from Abu Dhabi to Dublin and has carried more than 750,000 passengers between the two capitals since it began flying the route in July, 2007.
It has boosted its profile in Ireland and recently renewed its sponsorship of the Gaelic Athletic Association, which promotes Irish traditional sports, in a five-year deal.
Etihad, which is owned by the Abu Dhabi government, carried 8.3 million passengers last year and serves 84 passenger and cargo destinations in the Middle East, Africa, Europe, Asia, Australia and North America.
It has an order book of 100 aircraft, including 10 superjumbo Airbus A380s.
The carrier holds nearly 30 percent of airberlin, Europe’s sixth largest airline, and 40 percent of Air Seychelles.
Aer Lingus flies mainly European routes plus long-haul to the United States and in 2011 posted a net profit of 71.2 million euros ($94.3 million).