Major football sponsor Qatar Airways lands $2bn advance after ‘difficult’ year

By David Owen

September 29 – Prominent FIFA sponsor Qatar Airways has received a helping hand from the Qatar government after what it described as “one of the most difficult years in the airline’s history”.

This took the form of a near $2 billion advance, after the company posted a loss of just over QAR7 billion/$1.9 billion for the year to end-March 2020.

The move – set out in the group’s consolidated financial statements – may provide a degree of reassurance for FIFA and other football partners that the sponsorship tap is not about to be turned off, in spite of the disastrous impact on international travel of Covid-19.

The airline’s partner sports clubs include Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich, AS Roma and Boca Juniors. It is also the global airline partner of Conmebol’s Copa Libertadores and other properties.

As explained in the financial statements, as at 31 March 2020, “the group’s accumulated losses exceeded 50% of the share capital. As per the company’s articles of association, if the company’s accumulated losses exceed 50% of the issued share capital, an extraordinary general assembly meeting is required to be called to consider dissolution of the company before duration or decrease the share capital or otherwise.

“As a result, subsequent to the year end, the shareholder provided an advance of QAR7.3 billion to the company. The extraordinary general assembly of the company, held on 24 September 2020, approved the conversion of this advance to authorised and paid-up capital of the company by issuing 730,000,000 shares of nominal value of QAR10 per share to the Government of the State of Qatar.”

Group chief executive Akbar Al Baker said that “never before in the history of commercial aviation has our industry faced a challenge of this scale and magnitude”. He went on: “We saw a reported worldwide decline in international air travel of almost 95%, and a global reduction in seat capacity of 87% in April 2020 compared to April 2019.”

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