Will Etihad remain involved in European aviation?
According to the five years management agreement signed in 2013 by Etihad and the Serbian government, Etihad has until July 1, 2018, to notify of its decision to divest or not from Air Serbia in 2019.
After the failure of Air Berlin, Darwin Airline and Alitalia, Etihad recently announced that it would change its growth strategy into something “very disciplined, very measured“. However, there is one European airline partially owned by Etihad whose fate is still unclear: Air Serbia.
Throughout the years, Etihad acquired minority stakes in eight companies over the world. That strategy turned out to be a failure when in 2016 Etihad reported its first loss since it became profitable back in 2011.
James Hogan, who implemented the strategy, left company in January 2017 and was replaced by current CEO Tony Douglas. Darwin Airline and Air Berlin were declared bankrupt in the following months. Air Serbia is the last European company with Etihad as a minor stakeholder (49%, the remaining 51% being owned by the Serbian government).
In 2016, Air Serbia has declared a net profit of €0.9 million. However, the calculation of this profit has been questioned, as it also includes the tenth of million euros injected by the Serbian government, according to Serbian media Insajder.
Serbian president Aleksander Vucic expects Etihad to remain a partner within Air Serbia. “I wish Etihad would not withdraw from Air Serbia and I hope it will not. If they decide to withdraw, Air Serbia will survive and be in much better shape than it was Jat [ndlr: the late national carrier from which Air Serbia was born],” said Vucic to Serbian Vesti Online. Time will tell whether that confidence was justified.