Qatar Airways has bought a £460.9 million pounds stake in British Airways-owner IAG to increase its holding to 25.1 per cent.

The move is said to strengthen the Qatari carrier’s position ahead of a change in IAG’s management, with founder Willie Walsh due to step down next month.

Qatar Airways stated that the move was a show of support for the Anglo-Spanish airline holding company and its strategies. The increased stake takes Qatar Airway’s holding from 21.4 per cent to 25.1 per cent. The carrier’s first investment in IAG was a 9.99 per cent stake purchased in 2015 and it has steadily increased its holding since then.

Qatar Airways is one of the Middle East’s biggest carriers. The state-owned airline has investments in other carriers, said to be mostly for financial purposes, and it does not have seat on IAG’s board. The holdings were said to have been purchased after the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia banned the carrier from their airspace after a regional political dispute, which Qatar Airways has blamed for its recent losses.

Increased shareholding supports IAG’s strategy

Qatar Airways also has minority holdings in international carriers Cathay Pacific and China Southern, and the carrier has stated its interest in increasing its holdings, including doubling its holding in LATAM Airlines Group to 20 per cent and is in talks to buy a 49 per cent stake in Africa’s RwandAir. The airline owns 49 per cent of Air Italy, which was being placed into liquidation this month due to market problems.

Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive Akbar Al Baker said: “Our investment to date has been highly successful and the announced increase in our shareholding is evidence of our continued support of IAG and its strategy.”

Walsh will be succeeded by Luis Gallego, who has led Iberia since 2014.