Etihad Airways may become Gulf’s first publicly-traded carrier: report

Etihad Airways A380 aircraft
IanC66 / Shutterstock

Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), could be on the brink of a significant milestone in its corporate history. The Abu Dhabi-based investment and holding company, and the current owner of the airline ADQ is reportedly considering going public with an IPO (Initial Public Offering) listing for Etihad Airways PJSC. If this happens, it would mark a historic moment as Etihad could become the first major hub carrier in the Gulf region to be publicly traded.

The decision-making process at ADQ appears to be progressing. Discussions have reportedly been held with several banks regarding the potential listing “as soon as this year.” Sources familiar with the matter disclosed to Bloomberg that, although more details such as the precise timing and scale of the listing are still under discussion, ADQ, which took ownership of the airline in October 2022, seems to be exploring both traditional IPO and direct listing options.

The potential IPO listing of Etihad Airways would represent a notable shift in the region’s aviation landscape. It would highlight the UAE’s efforts to strategically use its national airline to stimulate the domestic stock market and could support the country’s attempts to steer its economy towards greater diversification beyond oil production.

However, Etihad Airways is not the sole carrier in the Gulf region exploring the possibility of going public with an IPO listing. Saudi low-cost airline flynas has already initiated the process to undertake an IPO in 2024. In December 2023, the Riyadh-based airline, backed by billionaire Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, hired investment banks Goldman Sachs Group and Morgan Stanley, as well as Fransi Capital of Saudi Arabia, to prepare for the company’s stock market listing during 2024.

Meanwhile, Etihad Airways’ competitor, Emirates, was also under IPO listing considerations a few years ago. In November 2021, the Dubai government announced it was considering listing ten state-backed companies on its stock exchange, as well as setting up a market maker fund of up to $545 million, in an attempt to boost activity in the local stock market.

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