Air Serbia (JU, Belgrade) has said that Etihad Airways will retain its 49% stake in the Serbian carrier and the two airlines will continue to work together, thus cutting short rumours about an impeding divestment, N1 has reported.

"Etihad continues to own 49 per cent of Air Serbia and remains a fully committed and supportive shareholder in partnership with Air Serbia’s majority shareholder, the Government of Serbia," the Serbian flag carrier has said.

According to the statement, the top management appointed by Etihad Airways, namely Interim Chief Executive Officer Duncan Naysmith and Chief Operations Officer Declan Keller, will remain in their positions through the end of 2018. Earlier reports had suggested that their contracts might be terminated in the near future as a part of Etihad's withdrawal strategy.

Etihad Airways became a shareholder in Jat Airways in 2013. Afterwards, the carrier has been rebranded as Air Serbia. Despite nearly continuous restructuring and frequent changes to its business model, the airline has remained only marginally profitable since then. According to the official Serbian government register, in 2016 Air Serbia posted a RSD234 million dinar (USD2.3 million) net profit. In 2017, the carrier reportedly earned EUR16 million euros (USD18.6 million).

Air Serbia currently remains Etihad Aviation Group's last active European equity partner. The Emirati group had previously owned a 29% stake in airberlin group, which went bankrupt in October 2017 after Etihad Airways refused to further finance the loss-making group including Air Berlin, Niki, LGW - Luftfahrtgesellschaft Walter, and Belair Airlines. Etihad Airways also took a 33.3% stake in Darwin Airline (F7, Lugano) in 2014 but sold these shares to 4K Invest, the owner of Adria Airways, in November 2017.

Etihad formally remains a 49% equity partner in Alitalia, although it announced in April 2017 that it would refrain from financing the Italian carrier any further after the unions had rejected a deep-cutting restructuring plan. The Italian government is currently leading proceedings which could lead to either an investment by a new equity partner, partial renationalisation, or a mix of both.

Etihad Airways also holds a 40% stake in Air Seychelles, another flag carrier undergoing restructuring, and a 24% stake in India's Jet Airways. Finally, Etihad Airways also holds a 19.9% stake in Virgin Australia (VA, Brisbane Int'l) and is looking to deepen its partnership with the Australian carrier.