DUBAI Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways is reviewing its strategy of investing in European airlines and is seeking an exit in a shake-up that could lead to the departure of CEO James Hogan, company and industry sources told Reuters on Tuesday.
Etihad saw a strategy to take equity stakes in carriers like Air Berlin, Alitalia and Air Serbia as a way to expand its European network but losses have mounted with Air Berlin and Alitalia failing to turn a profit.
Etihad announced on Sunday it was cutting jobs, with local rival Emirates following a day later in reviewing its workforce as overcapacity and a stronger dollar squeeze earnings.
Hogan's expected departure, which could come within the next three months according to the sources, and the Etihad restructuring was first reported by German daily Handelsblatt, which cited several sources as saying Etihad wanted to start unwinding its European investments in January.
"It is our long-standing policy never to comment on rumour or speculation," Etihad said in a statement.
Etihad last week finalised a deal for Air Berlin (AB1.DE) , in which it owns a 29 percent stake, to lease 38 crewed planes to Lufthansa (LHAG.DE). It is also buying Air Berlin's Niki unit and placing it into a new leisure airline joint venture with tour operator TUI (TUIT.L).
The measures will halve Air Berlin's fleet, leaving it with just 75 planes focussed on long-haul flying from Berlin and Duesseldorf.
Alitalia is considering job cuts and grounding planes, and Italian media have previously suggested that Lufthansa could become an investor in the struggling carrier, something that both have denied.
(Reporting by Alexander Cornwell in Dubai, Stanley Carvalho in Abu Dhabi, Victoria Bryan in Berlin; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)