Air China Eyes Capital Marts

Beijing-based Air China is planning to list on overseas stock markets, although the timetable has yet to be decided.

Ma Xulun, the firm's vice-president, said Air China would seek to list in New York and Hong Kong in the first half of 2002. He added the company wants international stock agencies to evaluate its total assets.

Wei Zhenzhong, an official with the firm's combination committee, which has taken charge of Air China's regrouping with China Southwest Airlines and China Aviation Group, said the listing would probably not happen soon.

"Ma just gave a rough timetable or perhaps just expressed our wish to be listed, but it may need more time to bring it into operation," Wei said.

He indicated that Air China wanted to combine the promising cargo businesses from the three airlines into a new group, and list them abroad.

"But we have to merge the three airlines first before we can discuss any listing issues," Wei said.

But Li Jinlin, the boss of China Airline's cargo division, told China Daily yesterday he knew nothing of the listing plan.

Li is confident about the cargo business in China and believes his division could make a profit if it operated independently of the passenger business.

But that is not yet on the cards, he said.

Air China is the only unlisted airline among the biggest three airlines in China, the other two being China Southern Airlines and China Eastern Airlines.

The airline planned to list overseas in the late 1990s, but the financial crisis across Asia in 1997 postponed its plans and also hit profits.

Sources with Air China indicated that the firm could list one of its subordinate companies - the ground service company which carries out such things as passenger check-ins - in the near future.

The sources said Air China is also discussing co-operation with several big international airlines, and an announcement could come later this year.

Air China has assets of 35.9 billion yuan (US$4.3 billion) and a fleet of 69 Boeing planes. It operates 43 international and 71 domestic air routes.

(China Daily 05/22/2001)