Middle East airline Etihad has acquired a minority stake in Aer Lingus and may look to expand its interest in the Irish state carrier.
The Abu Dhabi based company now owns 2.987 per cent of Aer Lingus according to a report in the Irish Times.
Aer Lingus has also confirmed that it is in discussions with Etihad in relation to reciprocal code-sharing arrangements.
The report states that the two airlines are also ‘investigating’ the possibility of joint procurement opportunities.
An Aer Lingus statement said: “Etihad had given an undertaking it does not intend to increase its shareholding pending the outcome of these discussions.
“There is no certainty as to the outcome of these discussions.”
There is now speculation that Etihad will bid for the Irish government’s 25 per cent stake in Aer Lingus when it becomes available in the coming months.
The two companies are also believed to be discussing joint marketing arrangements and a possible return by Aer Lingus to Middle East routes.
Etihad also has stakes in Air Berlin and Air Seychelles and has held talks with Air France KLM about a partnership.
Aer Lingus slots at London’s Heathrow Airport are believed to be of interest to Etihad.
The airline began flying from Dublin to Abu Dhabi in 2007 and operates 10 times a week between the cities.
Aer Lingus’s biggest shareholders are Ryanair, with 29.8 per cent; the Government, with a quarter share; and Denis O’Brien, who owns 3 per cent.