Qatar Airways (QR, Doha Hamad Int'l) is looking to acquire a 20% shareholding in the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED) the Sardinia Post has reported. Should the acquisition go through, it would give the Qatari carrier an indirect foothold in the fund's Alisarda Holding company which is parent to Meridiana, Meridiana fly, and Air Italy (2005).

According to the report, the investment would allow the Qataris to strategically position themselves for a possible investment in the airlines, albeit only once a painful, and highly controversial, restructuring drive has been completed.

As it stands, the Qataris would have access to Alisarda's other lucrative assets which include MRO division Meridiana Maintenance S.p.A and the management of Olbia Costa Smeralda airport (through its Geasar S.p.A., Cortesa S.r.l. and Eccelsa Aviation S.r.l. subsidiaries).

The latter operation is seen as a particularly attractive asset given the EUR1billion (USD1.2billion) in investments the Qatar Foundation Endowment will make in the island over the next ten years, not least of which is a planned new mega-hospital "San Raffaele" on the outskirts of Olbia.

Though Meridiana's management has vehemently denied past reports concerning talks with the Qataris, airline CEO Akbar al Baker has gone on record as saying preliminary discussions have indeed occurred and that Qatar Airways' door is always open to further negotiations.