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HNA Group buys 48% stake in French airline

By Wang Wen and Li Xiang (China Daily)

08:25, October 25, 2012

Hainan Airlines Co Ltd aircraft at Haikou Meilan International Airport in Haikou, Hainan province. The acquisition of Aigle Azur by HNA Group, the parent company of Hainan Airlines, marks the first time a Chinese carrier has invested in a European airline. [Photo/China Daily]

HNA Group, the parent company of Hainan Airlines Co Ltd and China's fourth-largest airline group, completed its acquisition of a 48 percent stake in Aigle Azur, a Paris-based private airline, as HNA expands its international flight network, the group announced on Tuesday.

The French airline also will open its route from Paris to Beijing in the summer of 2013.

It marks the first time that a Chinese airline company has invested in a European airline. HNA Group will be the second-largest shareholder in the airline, after Go Fast Group in France.

But the two sides refused to reveal the amount of the deal, which once was reported at $40 million.

According to the agreement, Aigle Azur will be governed by an executive committee composed of five representatives, two of which will be named by HNA Group. In addition, HNA will assign an executive member to be the vice-president and appoint a deputy chief financial officer.

Aigle Azur, founded in 1946, runs domestic passenger services in France and international services to Portugal, Italy and Mali. It also operates charter, cargo and wet-lease services.

The deal will also allow Aigle Azur to introduce two A330 wide-body aircraft.

HNA Group board member Tan Xiangdong said the cooperation with Go Fast and the investment in Aigle Azur is a milestone in HNA's overseas expansion, and demonstrates successful cooperation between Chinese and French companies.

The deal will increase the number of incoming tourists to France and create more jobs locally. The partnership will also allow Aigle Azur to enjoy HNA's annual passenger transport of 3.5 million people, Tan added.

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