American Airlines to take 2.68% stake in China Southern

A passenger talks on the phone as American Airlines jets sit parked at their gates at Washington's Ronald Reagan National Airport. (AP)
Updated 29 March 2017
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American Airlines to take 2.68% stake in China Southern

HONG KONG/SHANGHAI: China Southern Airlines Co. Ltd. said on Tuesday it will sell a small stake to American Airlines Group Inc. in a $200 million deal that will give the carriers better access to the world’s two largest travel markets.
China Southern will issue new shares worth HK$1.55 billion ($199.6 million) to American Airlines, making it the second US carrier to own part of a Chinese airline after Delta Air Lines Inc. bought 3.55 percent of China Eastern Airlines Corp. for $450 million in 2015.
It also means China’s three biggest airlines now have tie-ups with foreign airlines, something Beijing has encouraged as a way to boost the sector’s global competitiveness. Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific and Chinese flag-carrier Air China purchased stakes in each other in 2006.
“We are pleased to begin this relationship to better connect two of the world’s largest aviation markets and leading economies,” China Southern Chairman Wang Chengshun said in a statement issued by American Airlines.
In a filing to the Hong Kong stock exchange, China Southern said it would issue 270.61 million Hong Kong-listed H-shares, representing 2.68 percent of the enlarged share capital of the airline. The shares would be issued at HK$5.74 apiece, or a 4.6 percent premium to the previous close.
The carrier’s mainland-listed shares, which resumed trading after a three-day suspension, jumped as much as 4.3 percent in early trading to their highest price in 7-1/2 months.
“We are two of the biggest carriers in the world and our networks are highly complementary,” American Airlines President Robert Isom said in the statement.
Cooperation plans
For American Airlines, the deal could widen access to China, one of the biggest sources of tourists to the US, and will help it compete with rival Delta, which has invested in foreign carriers in Mexico, Brazil, and Britain in recent years.
It said the two carriers are expected to begin codeshare and interline agreements later this year that would allow customers to travel to more than 70 destinations beyond Beijing and Shanghai, and for China Southern’s customers to access almost 80 destinations beyond Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York.
Guangzhou-based China Southern, the country’s biggest airline in terms of passenger numbers, said the deal would help it “achieve the strategic goal of building a world-class aviation industry group.”
The airlines also could increase cooperation in other areas including staffing, sales, passenger loyalty programs and sharing airport facilities, it said.
Analysts, however, said they expected the deal to have little impact on the airlines’ operations beyond closer cooperation.
“It makes sense to partner with another foreign airline,” said Daiwa Capital Markets analyst Kelvin Lau, citing Air China and China Eastern’s deals.
“But ... because the stakeholding is pretty small, I do not think it will make any material changes in terms of management.”
Beijing has vowed to shake up Chinese airlines by implementing mixed-ownership reforms and introducing private capital and strategic investment into its state-owned enterprises to improve efficiency and competitiveness.
Chinese airlines have been aggressively expanding their fleet and international routes as they seek to capitalize on strong growth in outbound Chinese travel that has far outpaced tourism at home.


Oman oil minister excited to be part of Sri Lanka oil refinery project

Updated 24 March 2019
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Oman oil minister excited to be part of Sri Lanka oil refinery project

  • Sri Lanka originally said Oman’s oil ministry planned to take a 30 percent stake in the refinery
  • The India-based Accord Group is the main investor in the refinery project

HAMBANTOTA, Sri Lanka: Oman’s oil minister said on Sunday he was excited to be part of a Sri Lanka oil refinery project, an indication plans for the sultanate’s involvement may be back on track.
The comments by Mohammed bin Hamad Al-Rumhy came after an Omani official last week had denied the Middle Eastern country had agreed to invest in the project.
Rumhy joined Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe at the laying of the foundation stone for the planned $3.85 billion oil refinery at Hambantota on the south coast, which would be the island’s biggest foreign direct investment.
Sri Lanka originally said Oman’s oil ministry planned to take a 30 percent stake in the refinery, which will be built near a $1.4 billion port controlled by China Merchants Port Holdings.
The India-based Accord Group is the main investor in the refinery project, through a Singapore entity it controls.
“We have Chinese investment, we have Indian investments, we have Oman interest for investment, and we have investment interest from many other countries,” Wickremesinghe said at the event. “It shows that Hambantota will become the multinational investment zone.”
A senior Sri Lankan minister, who declined to be identified because he is not authorized to talk to the media, said Oman had given a commitment to invest in the refinery and there would not be any turning back.
But on Wednesday, Salim Al-Aufi, the undersecretary of Oman’s oil and gas ministry, said “no one on this side” was aware of the investment.
Sri Lanka’s investment board said last week that another Oman entity, Oman Trading International, was willing to supply all of the refinery’s feedstock needs and take on the marketing of the oil products it would produce.
Sri Lanka, India and China have been vying for political influence in Sri Lanka in recent years, with investment a key part of the battleground.
China is the biggest buyer of Omani oil. In January it imported about 80 percent of Oman’s crude exports, Oman government data shows.
An investment zone is planned by China Harbor Engineering Corp. alongside the port.