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Old July 8th, 2006, 05:12 PM   #101
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China's Shandong Airlines predicts Q2 loss

SHANGHAI, July 8 (Reuters) - Shandong Airlines Co Ltd., a troubled regional carrier based in the northeastern city of Jinan, forecast on Saturday it would post a net loss for the second quarter of this year.

In April, when it reported a first-quarter loss of 64.54 million yuan ($8.07 million), the airline said it expected to return to profitability in the second quarter because of cost controls and a seasonal rise in passenger traffic.

But rising fuel costs and disruption caused by a reorganisation of its fleet and routes mean it will post a loss for both the second quarter and the first half, the airline said without elaborating.

In the first half of 2005, Shandong Airlines posted a 4.67 million yuan net profit. It is due to announce earnings for the second quarter of 2006 on August 23.
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Old July 11th, 2006, 09:30 PM   #102
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Battle for additional flights to China about to take off
By Mark Skertic
11 July 2006
Chicago Tribune

There will be more flights between the United States and China beginning next year, although a decision on who will offer them is months away.

The U.S. Department of Transportation invited carriers to submit applications for additional access. At least one carrier will be allowed to add a daily flight to and from China. Currently, there are less than a dozen flights a day to China from the United States.

For travelers, it means more competition among airlines for business and the possibility of access to other parts of China. Airlines see the chance to add millions of dollars in additional revenue from customers traveling to and from one of the world's most robust economies.

"Because the number of routes available is limited by government agreement, that only increases their value," said Michael Roach, an airline industry consultant based in San Francisco. "And there's a perception that China is a giant cornucopia that will never run dry.

"The result is everyone believes they've got to have more to China."

First, airlines will engage in a war of words. They have until Aug. 17 to submit applications for additional flights. With just one or two additional daily flights being added, competition will be fierce.

Additional access to China was last granted in 2004, the same year that country signed an agreement with the United States to boost flights between the two countries. In applications for more flights that year, U.S. carriers submitted arguments boosting their own plans, and rebuttals undercutting the proposals of competitors.

Continental Airlines and American Airlines joined Northwest Airlines and United Airlines as carriers with regular passenger service to mainland China.

This time, only carriers already serving China are eligible to make a bid for the new frequencies, said Bill Adams, Department of Transportation spokesman. The restriction is part of the agreement between the two countries. The U.S. cannot name another carrier to serve China until 2008, he said.

The Department of Transportation's invitation to carriers said regulators would consider several factors when determining who will add flights. Federal authorities will consider, among other factors, "which application will be most likely to offer and maintain the best service for the traveling and/or shipping public," according to the criteria outlined by the department.

United, American, Northwest and Continental all plan to submit applications for additional flights, according to representatives at each of the airlines. Two of them now fly directly to China from Chicago.

United Airlines has four daily flights to China, two from Chicago to Beijing and Shanghai and two from San Francisco to those cities. The Elk Grove Township-based carrier would like to expand its network there, said spokeswoman Jean Medina.

"We are committed to China, having served it for 20 years, and will evaluate what opportunities make the most sense for United and our customers," she said.

United got new competition on its Chicago-China route this year when American Airlines launched service to Shanghai from O'Hare International Airport. That flight has been successful, and American wants to add more, said spokeswoman Mary Frances Fagan. "We've said even when we were granted the Chicago-Shanghai route that we'd seek additional opportunities to serve China from the United States," she said.

It is likely the new frequencies will mean greater access to more parts of China for travelers. The U.S.-China agreement puts Chinese cities into two groups: the major cities of Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou; and a collection of smaller cities and provinces, including Anhui, Hunan and Tianjin.

A daily flight to and from locations in either group will be awarded to a commercial passenger carrier. Two daily flights are reserved for all-cargo carriers such as FedEx or UPS.

An additional daily flight into the smaller cities and provinces is available to either a passenger airline or a cargo flight.

"These additional routes are valuable to those who are already there because they can integrate them into their networks," Roach said. As long as China's economy remains strong, some airlines benefit from having part of a limited supply of routes to that country, he said. "Everyone is always looking for a competitive advantage," he said. "That's why routes are valuable."
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Old July 13th, 2006, 05:28 PM   #103
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Japan, China agree to boost air traffic

TOKYO, July 13, 2006 (AFP) - Japan and China agreed Thursday to boost air traffic despite currently tense diplomatic relations between the two Asian giants.

The agreement provides for an increase of about 20 percent in the volume of passenger transport while cargo volume will be doubled, the Japanese transport ministry said.

"This agreement is very significant in promoting further exchanges of people and expanding distribution channels between the two countries," Japan's Minister of Land, Infrastructure and Transport Kazuo Kitagawa said in a statement.

The increases are expected to be made by the end of this year.

Passenger traffic, particularly the flow of Japanese tourists to China, has been hit in recent years by anti-Japanese demonstrations in China over Tokyo's militarist past and the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

Under the accord, Japan and China can also raise the number of airlines that can operate between the two countries to 13 each from the current six, the ministry said in a press release.

At present, three Japanese airlines, Japan Airlines, All Nippon Airways and Nippon Cargo Airlines, and six Chinese carriers offer routes linking the two countries.

The two countries also agreed to raise by two to 23 the number of airports they can use in each country.

At present, Japanese airlines use nine locations in Japan and 16 locations in China while Chinese airlines use 18 in Japan and 21 in China.

The agreement follows 18 months of talks.

China is fast emerging as a major aviation market, with its 2006-2010 economic plan foreseeing a doubling of air traffic. About 6.4 million passengers flew between the two countries in 2005.
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Old July 14th, 2006, 03:54 PM   #104
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Beijing airport cuts domestic flights on thunderstorm fears
14 July 2006

BEIJING (AP) - China's busiest airport, Beijing Capital, will cut hundreds of domestic flights from July to September due to thunderstorm risks, the official Xinhua News Agency said Friday.

It said the cuts will affect 584 flights scheduled to depart the capital between July 15-Sept. 25 for popular destinations such as eastern China's cities of Hangzhou and Nanjing, and Harbin in the northeast.

The majority of the canceled flights are scheduled to depart between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m., when thunderstorms are most likely to occur, it said, citing the General Administration of Civil Aviation.

Airlines facing cuts include Air China, China Southern Airlines, China Eastern Airlines, Hainan Airlines and others, the report said.

It said China has so far seen more thunderstorms this year than in previous years, but did not speculate about a reason or give further details.
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Old July 14th, 2006, 04:18 PM   #105
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China to buy 430 new aircraft over 5 years -agency

SHANGHAI, July 14 (Reuters) - China plans to buy 430 new aircraft over the next five years to meet robust demand for air travel, a government agency said on Friday.

The plane orders, plus the construction of 42 new airports, would cost $17.43 billion, the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission said in a statement on its Web site ( www.sasac.gov.cn ).

China's passenger traffic is expected to continue to grow at double-digit rates in the coming years, putting more pressure on existing facilities.

Chinese carriers are expected to have 1,580 planes by 2010, up from 863 currently, with the number of airports increasing to 186 from about 140, state media said in March.
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Old July 20th, 2006, 04:06 PM   #106
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Emirates to launch direct flight between Beijing and Dubai

BEIJING, July 19, 2006 (AFP) - The Dubai-based airline Emirates will launch a daily direct flight between Dubai and Beijing from September 1, the company said on its website.

This will be the carrier's third direct flight to China, in addition to its current direct services to Shanghai and Hong Kong.
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Old July 21st, 2006, 05:42 AM   #107
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American to challenge Continental for second U.S.-China route
By DAVID KOENIG
20 July 2006

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) - American Airlines said Thursday it is seeking permission for a second route to China and hopes to offer daily nonstop service between Dallas and Beijing beginning in March.

American, the largest U.S. carrier, said it had filed an application for the route with the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The timing would let American benefit from the 2008 Olympics in Beijing and from increased ties between China and multinational corporations based in the Dallas area. Airlines, like other U.S. businesses, are eager to serve China's huge population and rapidly growing economy.

The bid for new China flights pits Fort Worth-based American against Houston-based Continental Airlines Inc., which is seeking approval to fly from Newark, N.J., to Shanghai.

The Texas carriers already operate flights to China -- American serves the Chicago-Shanghai route, while Continental flies from Newark to Beijing. But both are chasing two early entrants in the market -- UAL Corp.'s United Airlines and Northwest Airlines Corp.

Neither United nor Northwest have bid for more China flights, but they have until Aug. 17, a Transportation Department spokesman said. Northwest expects to file, but would provide no details of its proposal, a spokesman said. United said it was still evaluating.

United flies out of Chicago and San Francisco, and Northwest flies from several U.S. cities to China via Tokyo.

American, a unit of AMR Corp., started flying between Chicago and Shanghai this year, shortly after launching service between Chicago and the Indian capital of New Delhi. Company officials declined to say whether the Chicago-Shanghai route is profitable, although Chairman and Chief Executive Gerard Arpey said traffic is higher than the airline had forecast.

"The international markets are very important to our long-term future," Arpey said. "Those are big investments for us. It takes time to build them up."

Arpey said he hoped to convince federal officials that service between China and Texas would be more helpful to American consumers than another route from Newark.

Continental could have sought approval to fly from Houston to China. But the airline went back to Newark, just across the Hudson River from Manhattan, because of its big hub there and New York's status as a financial center, said spokeswoman Sarah Anthony.

If the Transportation Department approves American's request -- there is no timetable for regulators to act -- American would fly from Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport to Beijing with 245-seat Boeing 777 aircraft.

A consultant hired by DFW Airport said the new service would add $120 million to the Dallas-area economy each year. Local business officials have been cultivating ties to China for several years, and companies such as Texas Instruments Inc. and Kimberly-Clark Corp. have operations there.

Sharon Venable, vice president for international business at the Greater Dallas Chamber, said direct air service to North Texas could help persuade Chinese companies to consider the area for their U.S. operations. Dallas is competing against New York and West Coast cities with big ports.

"We just have to get people (in China) talking about DFW as a port, but without the water," she said.
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Old July 24th, 2006, 06:23 AM   #108
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Air China plans to issue 2.7 bln A-shrs in listing

HONG KONG, July 24 (Reuters) - Air China Ltd. said on Monday it proposed to issue up to 2.7 billion A-shares to institutional and public investors in the mainland in its A-share listing.

Air China said in a statement the offer price of the A-shares would not be lower than 90 percent of the average closing price of the company's H-shares during the price consultation period of the A-share issue, which is subject to regulatory approval.

Air China said the precise timing of the A share issue would depend on a number of factors and the company would proceed with the plan as soon as possible. It gave no further listing details.

Shares of Air China rose 4.3 percent last week to end Friday at HK$3.025.
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Old July 24th, 2006, 06:24 AM   #109
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China Eastern Air June Passengers Up 80% On Year To 2.8M
20 July 2006

HONG KONG (Dow Jones)--China Eastern Airlines Ltd. (CEA) said Monday it carried 80% more passengers in June than in the same month last year, down slightly from an 82% rise in May.

The Shanghai-based carrier said it carried 2.80 million passengers on its flights in June. It didn't provide year-earlier figures.

Passengers on its domestic flights more than doubled in June from the same month last year to 2.22 million after it consolidated the operations of two airlines, China Eastern Air Yunnan Co. and China Eastern Air Northwest Co., it acquired in June 2005.

Passengers on China Eastern's international flights rose 33% to 368,340, while those on Hong Kong and Macau services rose 11% to 210,170.

The airline also carried 69,110 metric tons of cargo throughout its network during the month of June, up 34% from the year-earlier period.

For the first half of this year, China Eastern carried 16.77 million passengers, a rise of 92% over the first half of 2005. The airline shipped 418,960 metric tons, up 31%.

In June, the airline's passenger load factor, the percentage of seats that were filled, rose 2.06 percentage points from the year-earlier period to 69.6%, an increase from May's load factor of 68.36%.

China Eastern's cargo load factor fell 3.39 percentage points from a year earlier to 49.58%. In May, the cargo load factor was 51.06%.
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Old July 24th, 2006, 09:18 PM   #110
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Tokyo and Seoul offer slots for mainland carriers
24 July 2006
South China Morning Post

Landing slots in Tokyo and Seoul will be offered to Chinese airlines that agree to open scheduled services to Brazil and other un-served South American and African destinations, the General Administration for Civil Aviation of China (CAAC) said.

At present, there are no direct air links between the mainland and South America or Africa. Talks between Air China and Germany's Lufthansa about linking Beijing and Brazil via Frankfurt are under way.

Recent diplomatic visits by President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao have underscored China's desire to tap into South America's and Africa's abundant natural resources to help feed its growing industrial might.

A CAAC official who declined to be identified said 28 new slots per week at Tokyo's Narita Airport would be allocated to mainland carriers that agree to open scheduled passenger services to Brazil.

"The time slots at Narita are as precious as, if not more precious than, slots at Beijing," the official said. "These conditional offers will serve as an impetus to mainland carriers to exploit new markets."

Meanwhile, the official said 14 of 21 new flights between Beijing and Seoul would be granted to airlines ready to serve Africa, excluding North Africa, while 14 of 21 Shanghai-Seoul flights will be for carriers that initiate service to Saudi Arabia or South America, except for Brazil.

The four biggest mainland airlines - China Southern, Air China, China Eastern and Hainan Airlines - reacted cautiously to the latest offer, saying they needed more time to assess the profitability of the new services.

"We are quite satisfied with our existing service to Tokyo from Guangzhou and Dalian. We need to investigate the demand in the new markets before taking any action," a China Southern spokesman said.

"We need to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of the bundled air rights," said an official of Air China, which operates daily flights to Tokyo and Osaka.

China and Japan signed an air services agreement on July 13. In addition to the 28 new weekly slots at Narita, it also opens up 130 slots per week to Osaka and Nagoya. The agreement increased the capacity between the two countries by 18,000 seats and 1,740 tonnes of cargo per week.

Under a deal with South Korea, signed last month, mainland carriers will get 109 new slots in Seoul, of which 21 will originate in Beijing and 21 in Shanghai. Another 89 slots will be added at Jeju Island, Pusan and Gwangju.
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Old July 27th, 2006, 04:01 PM   #111
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July 26, 2006
Costly fuel, competition swell losses at airlines
Charlotte So and Russell Barling
South China Morning Post

Higher fuel costs and stiffer competition on the mainland widened losses for the country's airlines in the second quarter from the same period last year despite strong passenger growth.

Air China, China Eastern Airlines and other mainland carriers together lost 430 million yuan in the quarter to last month, up 22.8 per cent from the second quarter of last year.

However, the second-quarter loss was down sharply from the 2.14 billion yuan loss seen in the first three months.

The losses came despite a 17 per cent rise in sales to 38.37 billion yuan.

"They benefited from being able to add a fuel surcharge in April and there appeared to be a little more stability in pricing, but those factors fell short of offsetting the rising cost of aviation fuel," a transport analyst at a US investment bank said.

The General Administration of Civil Aviation of China (CAAC) in April authorised mainland carriers to raise fuel surcharges to 30 yuan for flights of less than 800 kilometres and 60 yuan for longer distances.

Even so, the carriers struggled as aviation fuel prices climbed 12.8 per cent in international markets from the previous three months to an average of US$85 per barrel.

In China, where fuel prices are regulated by the state, airlines now pay about US$94.90 a barrel. For the first six months, mainland carriers lost 2.57 billion yuan, more than four times the loss of 590 million they posted in the comparable period last year.

Sales grew 18.1 per cent to 71.67 billion yuan.

While the second-quarter result marked an improvement on the first quarter, when some of China's biggest carriers front-loaded expected maintenance costs for the year, few analysts predicted a financial turnaround for the industry in the short term given the rapid fleet expansions now under way.

"We expect capacity growth of up to 19 per cent year on year, which will stall any improvement in underlying earnings," Mark Webb, regional transport analyst for HSBC, said in a recent report.

"Pockets of profitability, where they exist, are under attack from deregulation of domestic and short-haul international routes."

The country's airports fared better than its carriers.

Their sales increased 14.5 per cent year on year to 5.2 billion yuan, while earnings rose 60.7 per cent to 900 million yuan.

The overall aviation industry saw sales climb 20.6 per cent year on year in the first half to 102.9 billion yuan, according to the CAAC.

The industry lost 640 million yuan, compared with a 1.16 billion yuan profit last year.

The volume of cargo moved by the airlines in the second quarter increased 11.4 per cent to 814,000 tonnes.
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Old July 28th, 2006, 03:35 PM   #112
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DHL considers building a hub in Shanghai

SHANGHAI, July 28 (Reuters) - Deutsche Post's express delivery arm DHL Express has signed a memorandum of understanding with Shanghai Airport Authority to consider building a hub in China's richest city.

DHL said in a statement on Friday no final agreement had been reached yet, but that the memorandum of understanding "is an indication of DHL's interest to explore building a hub in Shanghai".

DHL and rivals FedEx Corp. and UPS are competing to expand in China's express delivery market as rocketing global trade drives demand for freight and logistics services.

The German giant currently operates two primary Asia Pacific express hubs in Hong Kong and Singapore. It has been considering a third facility in the region, executives told Reuters earlier.

The new Shanghai facility, if goes ahead, would be the third foreign-funded air hub in China. FedEx and UPS have committed to build hubs in the southern city of Guangzhou and in Shanghai respectively.
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Old July 31st, 2006, 06:54 AM   #113
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Air China launches Shanghai IPO

SHANGHAI, July 31 (Reuters) - Air China Ltd. , the country's flagship carrier, said on Monday it was starting talks with potential investors on the pricing of its initial public offer, which is expected to raise 8.1 billion yuan ($1 billion) in Shanghai.

The airline, now traded in Hong Kong, is the latest in a string of major Chinese companies to announce plans to list on domestic stock markets this year.

The airline said in a statement that it was beginning consultations on the pricing of the offer of up to 2.7 billion new A-shares, which would account for as much as 22.25 percent of the company's post-offer share capital.

Up to 1.175 billion shares will be sold to institutional investors this Thursday and Friday, with a further 350 million going to strategic investors.

The airline will remain controlled by the state-run Air China group, while the stake held by Hong Kong's Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. will drop to 7.77 percent from 10 percent.

The retail portion of the offer, as many as 1.175 billion shares, will be conducted on August 9.

Air China is expected to list in Shanghai not later than August 22, the official Shanghai Securities News said.

Funds raised would go towards the airline's expansion, including the purchase of 20 previously ordered Airbus planes and and 25 Boeing jets, the newspaper said.
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Old August 1st, 2006, 06:28 AM   #114
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China may up fuel flight surcharges further-paper

BEIJING, Aug 1 (Reuters) - China may raise flight surcharges again this year to help struggling domestic airlines pass higher fuel costs onto consumers, a state newspaper said on Tuesday.

The surcharge for each passenger flying less than 800 km (500 miles) could rise to 50 yuan ($6.3) from 30 yuan now, while those flying further may need to pay a 100 yuan surcharge, up from 60 yuan, the Beijing News reported, citing an unnamed official from the airline regulator.

The move would only occur if the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) reached agreement with the country's top economic planner, the National Development and Reform Commission, the paper said.

Higher surcharges would help cushion the blow of rising oil prices on Chinese airlines but might also lead to fewer passengers, it said.

China last raised fuel surcharges on domestic flights on April 10 after the authorities increased fuel prices.

At that time, the surcharge for passengers flying less than 800 km was raised to 30 yuan from 20 yuan, while that for passengers going further was adjusted to 60 yuan from 40 yuan.

Chinese airlines posted a combined loss of around 2.5 billion yuan in the first half of this year, hit by surging fuel prices, state media said last month.

At least one of China's domestically listed airlines, Shanghai Airlines Co. Ltd. , has forecast a first-half loss, citing a rise in the price of aviation fuel that had outweighed cost-cutting efforts.

China's carriers, including China Southern Airlines Co. Ltd. , China Eastern Airlines Ltd. and Hainan Airlines Co. Ltd. are required to post their first-half results before Aug. 31. ($1=7.97 Yuan)
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Old August 1st, 2006, 06:48 AM   #115
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Beijing Said Plans to Build 2nd Airport
31 July 2006

BEIJING (AP) - Beijing plans to start building a second international airport after the 2008 Olympics, a news report said Monday.

Officials are looking for a site for the second airport, which could be as far away as neighboring Hebei province, the China Daily said. It said officials were recently told to speed up the selection process so other planning could begin.

The Chinese capital is in the midst of a massive expansion of its first international airport to cope with booming passenger numbers and an influx of tourists expected for the Summer Olympics.

The expansion of Beijing's first international airport is due to be completed by next year. It is meant to expand its capacity to 60 million travelers and 1.8 million tons of cargo per year, up from the present limit of 35 million passengers and 780,000 tons of cargo.
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Old August 2nd, 2006, 06:24 PM   #116
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From news.gov.hk:
Zhuhai Airport acquisition pact approved
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Old August 3rd, 2006, 05:56 AM   #117
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Air China sets IPO price range at discount to HK

SHANGHAI, Aug 3 (Reuters) - Air China Ltd. <0753.HK>, the country's flag carrier, on Thursday set the price range for its Shanghai initial public offering at a 3-10 percent discount to its Hong Kong-listed shares.

The Shanghai IPO, which is expected to raise as much as 8 billion yuan (US$1 billion) through the sale of up to 2.7 billion new A-shares, will be priced at between 2.75 and 2.95 yuan per share, the airline said in a statement.

The range represents a price/earnings ratio of between 20.07 and 21.53 times 2005 earnings, compared with an average ratio for the overall Shanghai stock market of about 20.

At current exchange rates, the range prices Air China's Shanghai A-shares at between HK$2.68 and HK$2.88, compared with the HK$2.97 close of the airline's H-shares in Hong Kong on Wednesday.

That is a slightly smaller discount than the gap seen during Bank of China's <3988.HK><601988.SS> 20 billion yuan Shanghai IPO in June. Bank of China's indicative price range was at a 9-12 percent discount to its Hong Kong-listed H-shares.

Air China, one among a flood of companies to list in Shanghai since the government lifted a ban on domestic IPOs in May, plans to sell up to 1.175 billion A-shares to institutional investors by the end of this week.

A similar amount will be sold to retail investors next Wednesday, and 350 million shares have been earmarked for strategic corporate investors, including some of China's biggest transport companies. Air China plans to list in Shanghai by August 22.

The price range was set after consultations with institutional investors. Foreign investors and brokerages were relatively bullish on the offer, the official Shanghai Securities News reported, with two out of four foreign investors and four of nine brokerages suggesting prices between 3.05 and 3.30 yuan.

($1=7.97)
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Old August 6th, 2006, 07:06 PM   #118
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Xinhua news:
China Post Airlines launch international cargo flight service
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Old August 7th, 2006, 04:06 AM   #119
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Air China demand poor, IPO may be changed - media

SHANGHAI, Aug 7 (Reuters) - Demand for the domestic initial public offer of Air China Ltd. has proved worse than expected and underwriters may be forced to change the offer plan, official media reported on Monday.

Air China, the country's flag carrier, aims to raise as much as 8 billion yuan (US$1 billion) by selling up to 2.7 billion new A-shares. The institutional portion of the offer was scheduled to be conducted at the end of last week, and the airline has said it plans to list in Shanghai by August 22.

But because of overall stock market weakness and the poor performance of several recent new listings, demand for the institutional tranche was "far lower" than the 1.175 billion shares on offer, the official Shanghai Securities Daily said.

It said several major underwriters of the offer were now holding emergency discussions on how to handle the situation.

Air China set the price range for its offer at 2.75-2.95 yuan per share. At current exchange rates, that represents a discount of between 3 and 9 percent to the HK$2.96 last close of Air China's Hong Kong-listed H-shares on Friday.

"We didn't buy many Air China shares, just a symbolic one million shares," the newspaper quoted a senior official at an unnamed fund manager as saying. "The listing price is high, only about 0.2 yuan below the H-share, so there's not much room (for the A-share to rise)."

If the listing price is set at 2.85 yuan, in the middle of the range, underwriters may end up having to buy nearly 1.9 billion of the total 2.7 billion shares on offer, the newspaper said.

The retail portion of the offer, also 1.175 billion shares, is due to be held this Wednesday, and 350 million shares have been earmarked for strategic corporate investors.

Underwriters are reluctant to delay or suspend the IPO because of the negative effect that would have on market sentiment, the newspaper quoted the fund management official as saying.

An adjustment to the size of the IPO or the offer price is therefore the most likely outcome, the official added.

($1 = 8.00)
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Old August 7th, 2006, 03:49 PM   #120
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Chinese airline hires 40 Brazilian pilots

BEIJING, Aug 7, 2006 (AFP) - China's Shenzhen Airlines has hired 40 Brazilian pilots, one of the largest foreign batches to be employed in the Chinese aviation industry, state media said Monday.

They will be paid triple the salary of Chinese pilots, which amounts to a little more than what they were getting in Brazil, the Beijing News quoted Shenzhen Airlines' vice president Zhang Pei as saying, without giving figures.

The pilots had all been laid off from their airline in Brazil, the report said.

To cope with a steadily worsening shortage of pilots, China last year began allowing Chinese airlines to employ foreigners to fly their planes.

Some of the major airlines, such as Air China and Shanghai Airlines, have this year hired foreign pilots or announced their intention to do so, but the numbers have been very small.

China's commercial airlines currently employ about 11,000 pilots but experts have warned the number needs to increase fast to cope with a rapid expansion of the nation's aviation industry.

The Civil Aviation Flight University of China, the nation's major training school for commercial airline pilots, graduates a maximum of 600 pilots a year.

But based on the delivery of new aircraft, industry experts have estimated that China currently needs up to 1,600 new pilots every year.
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