Shareholder Etihad reports a leap in profits
Gulf airline Etihad, which owns 4.99pc of Aer Lingus, has reported record profits as the number of passengers it carried jumped 22pc to almost 15 million last year.
The carrier bought its stake in Aer Lingus between 2012 and 2014, paying a total of €32.5m for the shares.
It stands to get €67.9m for its holding if the Irish airline is sold to IAG - a more likely prospect than ever after the Dáil voted in favour of the deal last night.
Abu Dhabi-based Etihad, headed by Australian chief executive James Hogan, said it generated a net profit of $73m (€66.7m) last year, 52pc more than it did in 2013.
Its revenue rose 26.7pc to $7.6bn (€6.9bn) as its network expanded around the world.
Etihad, which was founded in 2003, flies two times a day from Dublin to Abu Dhabi, having launched the service in 2007.
It is one of the airline's busiest routes, primarily ferrying passengers between Ireland and Australia, but also to other destinations such as India and China.
Etihad first took a stake in Aer Lingus with the intention of eventually making a "large investment" in the Irish airline, according to Mr Hogan.
However, the strategic plans of the two airlines didn't eventually align.
The Gulf airline has taken stakes in other airlines such as Air Berlin and Alitalia in order to feed traffic into its Abu Dhabi hub.
Aer Lingus has been focused on driving traffic into Dublin from the UK and continental Europe to fuel traffic on its long-haul services to North America.
Etihad, as well as rivals Emirates and Qatar Airways, are frequently accused of being shored up by subsidies from their oil-rich sovereign parents.
That criticism has been particularly evident in the United States, where Etihad wants to boost its presence.
Mr Hogan has consistently denied this, saying the airline has to pay its own way.
He said yesterday that there was "aggressive protectionist sentiment in Europe and the US", with Etihad and other airlines being targeted.
Etihad launched services to 10 new destinations in eight countries last year.