Emirates said to rule out financial lifeline for Qantas

Qantas blamed its predicament on record fuel costs and fierce competition from subsidized rivals

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Emirates president Tim Clark said he is carefully watching developments at alliance partner Qantas, but the Dubai airline ruled out throwing a financial lifeline to the embattled Australian flag carrier, in comments reported on Monday.

Earlier this month, Qantas forecast a half-year loss of up to Aus$300 million ($269 million) and said it would axe 1,000 jobs, leading to a credit downgrade from Standard & Poor's, which cut its rating to “junk” status.

Qantas blamed its predicament on record fuel costs and fierce competition from subsidized rivals, particularly Virgin Australia, which is majority owned by state-backed Singapore Airlines, Air New Zealand and Etihad.

Chief Alan Joyce has been lobbying the government to relax the Qantas Sale Act, which limits foreign ownership in the national carrier to 49 percent, arguing the cap hurts its ability to compete, particularly against Virgin Australia.

But even if the government decides to lift the foreign ownership restrictions, which it has indicated is possible, Clark said he would not be pumping in any cash.

In an emailed statement to the West Australian newspaper, published Monday, Clark said he “would watch it [the situation] carefully” but Emirates did not have the “bottomless pit of cash” Virgin Australia's partner Etihad Airways had.

“So no, equity is not on the table,” Clark said.

Emirates formalized an alliance with Qantas earlier this year, seen as vital to the sustainability of the Australian airline.

It allows both carriers to combine operations for an initial period of five years, including coordinating ticket prices and schedules.

The deal also opened up Qantas's lucrative Australian domestic network of more than 50 destinations to Emirates customers.

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