By Leithen Francis in Singapore

Hainan Airlines has bought a large minority stake in CR Airways, leading to a top-level management change in the Hong Kong carrier. A senior source at CR Airways says Hainan Airlines has bought a 45% stake in CR Airways and this stake will be transferred to Grand China Air, a new holding company which Hainan Airlines is establishing to house its airlines.

Hong Kong businessman Robert Yip, head of Hong Kong company China Rich Holdings, is the major owner of CR Airways, but Hainan Airlines secured its 45% stake by buying some convertible notes held by Yu Ming Investments. Yu Ming is a publicly-traded company in Hong Kong that owns hotels and office buildings, as well as a large minority stake in Asia World Expo, Hong Kong’s new exhibition centre next to Hong Kong airport.

As for management changes, Ren Wei Dong is appointed executive president of CR Airways. Ren was previously an executive in Hainan Airlines’ aircraft procurement department. Li Qiang has been appointed chief executive, having previously been vice-president commercial at Air Macau; and Wang Shao Ping, previously an executive with Hainan Airlines’ Beijing carrier China Xinhua Airlines, has been appointed chief operating officer.

Hainan Airlines originally planned to re-brand the Hong Kong airline Grand China Air, but has since decided against it. The CR Airways source says the airline will continue to be called CR Airways. Hainan Airlines plans to use CR Airways to access the international market, which means Hong Kong is to become a major international hub for Hainan. The mainland Chinese carrier will link its domestic network with CR Airways’ international network so Hainan’s passengers from mainland China can travel internationally via Hong Kong on CR Airways, says the source.

Source: Flight International