TWO KEY CITIC Pacific officials have resigned from the Cathay Pacific board, in a move designed to distance the Chinese firm and its interest in Dragonair from UK-controlled Swire.

Citic chairman Larry Yung Chi-kin and managing director Henry Fan Hung-ling quit on 11 March. Citic's 10% interest in Cathay will now be represented by Citic director Zhuang Shoucang and Fan's assistant Peter Mak Shair-on.

The surprise resignations come as Cathay and its sister carrier Dragonair face the prospect of direct competition for the first time from a Chinese-controlled Hong Kong-based carrier. Cathay and Swire control 43% of Dragonair and Citic 46%.

China National Aviation's (CNAC) application for an air-operator's certificate, for start-up carrier China Hong Kong, is opposed by Cathay.

Swire has sought to play down the resignations, suggesting that Citic is currying Chinese political favour. Citic is understood to want to protect its stake in Dragonair by strengthening its position in Beijing against CNAC.

Source: Flight International