Cathay Pacific has confirmed recent media reports that it is in talks on a potential acquisition of low-cost rival Hong Kong Express.

The Oneworld carrier states in a stock exchange disclosure that it is “in active discussions about an acquisition involving [HK Express].”

While it referenced claims in some of the reports that the talks are being held with HNA Group, it did not directly confirm the Chinese conglomerate as the counter-party to those talks. Similarly, the disclosure did not directly address other claims that Cathay is also seeking to take a stake in Hong Kong Airlines, and only referenced the budget carrier.

It adds however that it has not entered into any agreements, and further announcements will be made when it is appropriate.

HK Express launched as a niche regional carrier in 2005, connecting Hong Kong with secondary cities in China. The HNA Group subsequently acquired a 45% stake in the carrier, later relaunching it in 2013 as a low-cost carrier.

It is one of the founding members of the HNA-backed U-Fly alliance

Cirium’s Fleets Analyzer shows that it has 24 aircraft in its fleet, comprised of 11 A321s, eight A320ceos and five A320neos.

In 2017, HK Express came under scrutiny over a series of delays and cancellations, as well as high turnover of staff in its safety department. That saw it temporarily prevented from adding more aircraft to its fleet and launching new routes.

Cirium schedules data shows that the carrier’s network focuses on connecting Hong Kong to destinations in Japan and Southeast Asia.

Source: Cirium Dashboard