Hainan Airlines
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PARIS- it has been a historical announcement for France and for Europe. For the first time in the history of French air transport, China HNA Group Co., Ltd. acquired a 48% equity interest in French niche carrier Aigle Azur Transports Aeriens, becoming the second largest shareholder of Aigle Azur, after Go Fast Transport. This is a major step also for the EU as this is the first time that a Chinese aviation enterprise invests into a European airline.

Aigle Azur is a relatively small carrier weighting only € 320 million in turnover in 2011 for a total passengers’ figure of 1.77 million. By comparison, HNA Group turnover reached last year over € 12 billion (US$15.4 billion) while its airline – the fourth largest in China- has an annual turnover of over € 3 billion. Hainan Airlines has among its shareholder US billionaire George Soros. Negociations between Aigle Azur and HNA Group were already revealed by the financial daily La Tribune in December 2011. The transaction took 18 months for completion.

The investment is part of HNA strategy to internationalize its portfolio. HNA Group is already present in Ghana’s Africa World Airlines (AWA) which made a successful maiden voyage on September 21st in Accra. HNA Group has other investments in Hong Kong and in Turkey with maintenance, freight and passengers’ transport. Hainan Airlines owns 45% of the shares of Hong Kong Airlines.

Under the agreement, Aigle Azur will be governed by the Executive Committee composed of five representatives, two of which will be named by HNA Group. In addition, HNA Group also has the right to assign an executive member to be the vice president and appoint a Deputy Chief Financial Officer.

During the investment ceremony, Mr. Adam Tan, Board Director of HNA Group, said investing in Aigle Azur and cooperating with Go Fast, a large group with a focus on the major industries of logistics, aviation and tourism, is a milestone in HNA’s internationalization, demonstrating the success between Chinese and French companies.

The investment of HNA Group into Aigle Azur opens new perspectives for the French airline. According to HNA, two wide-body aircrafts Airbus A330-200 have been decided to be introduced by Aigle Azur, while air routes from Paris to Beijing and other destinations will be opened. Aigle Azur will continue to expand routes from France to North and West Africa and other places throughout Africa, integrating resources by utilizing advantages of both parties and building a flight network connecting Asia, Europe and Africa. Thanks to the new investment into Aigle Azur, the airline will be able to expand adding some 400 additional people to its team.

HNA Aviation, as a core industrial group of HNA, manages HNA’s subsidiaries in air transportation related businesses. Now, the company has a total asset of USD18.5 billion, over 270 aircrafts and 500 flight routes to 130 cities. Hainan Airline itself has 100 aircraft and transported 20 million passengers in 2011 with a network of over 90 destinations. The carrier operates international schedule and charter flights from Beijing to Berlin, Bangkok, Brussels, Zurich, St. Petersburg, Moscow, Phuket, Osaka and Sydney; from Xian to Hong Kong, from Urumqi to Astana, and from Hainan island to Bangkok, Seoul and Singapore. It recently gained traffic rights from Beijing to Chicago, due to start in the middle of 2013.

SOURCE: traveldailynews.asia


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