Russian cargo airline Volga-Dnepr has brought forward plans for an initial public offering to next year to fund the acquisition of 10 Boeing 747s for its new Europe to China scheduled service.

The operator will also use the funds to finance the development of the improved Antonov An-124-100M, which began flight-testing at Aviastar's plant in Ulyanovsk earlier this month. Volga-Dnepr will use the new variant, which has a series of improvements including a 30t (66,000lb) increase in payload to 150t, to support the growth of its core outsize cargo business.

This year the airline plans to raise at least $50 million in a private placing in Europe, with president Alexey Isaikin describing it as a "testing of the waters to see how the Volga-Dnepr brand stands up in the international finance markets". He says the company has "established sources of finance", but is "looking for new avenues".

Volga-Dnepr's Air Bridge Cargo venture began operations on 21 April with the first of a twice-weekly 747-200F service connecting Luxembourg with Shanghai and Tianjing in China via Moscow and Novosibirsk in Russia. A second ex-Alitalia 747-200F will be added in May. Eventually, the carrier plans to expand services to the USA, operating a round-the-world route.

Speaking at the Russian Economic Forum in London last week, Isaikin predicted the business, which turned over more than $250 million last year, would have sales of $800 million by 2008.


Source: Flight International