Cargolux 747-400F. By Rob Finlayson

Tensions are rising at Cargolux International Airlines (CV) over the increased influence of Qatar Airways (QR), which is reportedly willing to increase its shareholding to 49% from 35% via a capital increase.

CV is holding an annual meetingWednesday and the company is expected to report a loss of $18 million for 2011, according to Luxembourg media. It would be the carrier’s fourth year of losses in the last five years (ATW Daily News, April 1, 2011). In the first two months of this year losses amounted to $27.5 million, according to media reports, citing company sources. 

The meeting will be followed by the appointment of a new board of directors. The OGB-L union opposes the reappointment of the current ad interim chairman, Albert Wildgen, which it claims is a QR representative. It is calling for the nomination of a neutral chairman “who represents the interest of Luxembourg and of Cargolux.”

The union has also requested more details on the strategic partnership between QR and CV and a recently signed secret agreement, which was leaked to the local press, between the two carriers that increases QR’s shareholding to 49%.

QR and CV in September 2011 completed the equity transaction announced in June (ATW Daily News, June 10) after gaining all regulatory approvals, making the Doha-based carrier the second largest shareholder in Europe's largest all-cargo airline with a 35% stake (ATW Daily News, Sept. 13, 2011).

Qatari Capital Precision investment fund has shown an interest in acquiring a stake in Luxair, CV’s actual largest shareholder with 43.4%.  If this were to materialize, Qatari interest would hold a 55% stake in CV and Luxembourg would lose “another jewel in its economy,” the OGB-L union warned.

But minister-sustainable development and infrastructure Claude Wiseler told Parliament the agreement between CV and QR includes a clause capping QR’s maximum shareholding at 49%.

The LCGB union urged CV to only change the shareholding if it could ensure the sustainability of the company and its staff.

Both unions had threatened to strike but it was averted after a meeting Monday with the minister of transport and Wiseler, who told unions the company’s current shareholding ratio will remain unchanged for the moment. They, however, confirmed that a strategic committee had initiated a process of reflection on the carrier’s strategy in the wake of its current difficulty and that strategy changes might be announced in the coming months. These could include changes to its fleet, Wort.lu reported.

CV was not available for comment.

Separately, CV took delivery of its third new Boeing 747-8 freighter (ATW Daily News, Oct. 13, 2011).