British Airways will pursue further mergers or takeovers following its tie-up with Iberia at the end of this year.

BA boss Willie Walsh told the Aviation Club in London: “We have created an entity capable of being scaled up. Our ambition is truly global. We are looking at synergies with Iberia, but our focus goes beyond that.”

Spanish carrier Iberia and BA are due to merge by December to form umbrella company International Airlines (known as IACG – International Airlines Consolidated Group), with BA also pursuing anti-trust immunity in the US for a closer alliance with American Airlines.

This would allow the three carriers to coordinate fares and services across the Atlantic. BA and Iberia will continue to operate separately in a similar way to Air France and KLM within the merged Air France-KLM. However, the International Airlines group could expand as early as next year.

Walsh, who will head IACG, said: “IACG is not about putting BA and Iberia together. It is about creating a platform to create a carrier of global scale. The intention is to be in a position to avail [ourselves] of opportunities if they present themselves, certainly within the first year of operation.”

He insisted no carriers had been targeted as partners, but there is speculation he may revive merger talks with Qantas, aborted in 2008, or seek a deal with Cathay Pacific. There is also speculation about deals with TAM of Brazil, Finnair, TAP of Portugal and LOT of Poland.

The BA chief executive repeated a previous warning that restrictions on expansion at Heathrow would compel BA to expand its network-hub operations beyond Britain.

“We can compete effectively for the next ten years,” he said. “But in 20 years the UK is going to be in a difficult position because we do not have the infrastructure to compete. We are not going to stand still, so we will look to participate at other hubs.”