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Abu Dhabi's Etihad boosts Virgin Australia stake

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) -- Etihad Airways says it has nearly doubled its stake in carrier Virgin Australia to 19.9 percent as part of the fast-growing airline's efforts to bolster international partnerships.

The moves by Abu Dhabi-based Etihad reflect the intense competition with regional rivals Qatar Airways and Dubai's Emirates, which made a partnership this year with Australia's Qantas Airways.

An Etihad statement on Thursday said the carrier had increased its stake in Virgin Australia through stock purchases over the past weeks, reaching the maximum level allowed by Australian regulators. Previously, Etihad had a 10.5 percent stake.

Etihad also holds shares in airberlin, Air Seychelles and Aer Lingus. It plans to acquire 49 percent of Air Serbia in January 2014 and is seeking Indian regulatory clearance for a 24 percent stake in Mumbai-based Jet Airways.