China Eastern Airlines will complete its merger by year-end with Shanghai Airlines and, in a separate development, the carrier's chairman has revived the issue of China Eastern seeking a strategic investor and joining an airline alliance.

"All the legal procedures will be completed by the end of 2009" for the merger with Shanghai Airlines, China Eastern general manager Ma Xulun is quoted in the China Daily as saying.

The airline's chairman Liu Shaoyong also told reporters in Shanghai that China Eastern will decide soon on which international airline alliance it will join. Air China and Shanghai Airlines are members of Star Alliance, while China Southern Airlines is a member of SkyTeam Alliance. Oneworld has Cathay Pacific Airways in Hong Kong.

Liu also says China Eastern is open to having a strategic investor.

About two years ago, Singapore Airlines (SIA) and Singapore's state-owned investment company Temasek Holdings were planning to buy a 24% stake in China Eastern but Air China effectively blocked the move.

In more recent times, China Eastern has posted large losses and SIA has steered clear of resuming talks with China Eastern.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news