Emirates Executive Says M&A Isn't in DNA of Long-Haul Carrier

(Bloomberg) -- Dubai airline Emirates is focused on organic growth and remains averse to expanding through acquisitions, an executive said, repeating a denial that the Persian Gulf giant is in talks to take over the airline arm of unprofitable neighbor Etihad.

“Sure we want to lift synergies and create more efficiencies, but that is not a merger,” Hubert Frach, Emirates’s head of commercial operations for the Americas and Europe, said in an interview in Edinburgh Monday. “DNA-wise we come from a completely different angle. The key success formula for Emirates is organic growth."

"It gives us the speed, independence and agility," Frach said after the carrier’s inaugural flight to Edinburgh. "It’s not so much partnership, it’s not so much forming alliances.”

Bloomberg News reported Sept. 20 that Emirates, already the biggest long-haul airline, was exploring a deal to make it the world’s No. 1 by passenger traffic, citing people familiar with the matter. Both airlines initially declined to comment, before later saying no talks were underway.

“There is no truth to it,” Frach said about reported talks to combine the businesses. “Zero truth.”

Frach said Emirates isn’t against cooperation in principle -- such as code-share deals and a joint venture with Australia’s Qantas Airways Ltd. -- and confirmed comments earlier this year from Tim Clark, Emirates’s president, suggesting it and Etihad will look at ways of collaborating. The pair already work closely on group security and share some passenger lounges, Frach said.

Emirates and Etihad have traditionally been arch rivals, with their hubs competing to attract the same transfer passengers making long-distance trips between Asia and the West. Any deal would require the blessing of the rulers of the richest sheikhdoms in the United Arab Emirates.

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