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Airline Announces Overseas IPO Plan
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Budget carrier Spring Airlines plans to list on an overseas stock exchange in 2009 to attract international capital to fund aircraft purchases.


Wang Zhenghua, the Shanghai-based airline's president, made the announcement at a ceremony to receive its fourth A320 aircraft from Airbus.


The airline has submitted an application to the General Administration of Civil Aviation of China (CAAC) to buy 20 of the 150 A320s that China ordered during French President Jacques Chirac's visit to Beijing last month.


Wang said that the airline had yet to decide where its listing would take place, but it would be required to make a profit for three years before it can go ahead with an initial public offering (IPO).


If the IPO is successful in 2009, Spring Airlines is likely to become the first Chinese private budget airline to be listed overseas, giving it a great competitive advantage over the nation's other private carriers.


In the meantime, Wang said the company would look to a private share placement for its funding needs. Citigroup is a likely investor once the sale is completed in 2008.


The US bank was chosen over rivals such as Morgan Stanley and Lehman Brothers, according to airline spokesman Zhang Lei.


The size of the Citigroup stake and amount it will invest have yet to be decided, but all pre-IPO investors are expected to exit during the offering, he said.


In spite of unfavorable market conditions such as fierce competition and high oil costs, Spring Airlines has proven wrong many market analysts who claimed it would be impossible for an airline with a fleet of three or four aircraft to be profitable.


Spring has so far made a net profit of at least 20 million yuan (US$2.5 million) this year, a sharp turnaround from the 2 million yuan (253,165) loss it notched up in 2005.


(China Daily November 24, 2006)


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