Cargolux China is about to take off

Cargolux_09_HREarly next week – Tuesday, 19 January – the Cargolux Board of Directors will meet, with the final details of the Cargolux China joint venture airline dominating the agenda.

In advance of the meeting, Cargolux is staying quiet on details, but a report in the daily Luxemburger Wort quotes François Bausch, Luxembourg’s Minister for Sustainable Development & Infrastructure, as saying that Henan Civil Aviation Development & Investment Co (HNCA, an investment arm of the government of China’s Henan province) might hold a 65% stake in the new carrier, while Cargolux would take 35%. This is exactly opposite the current investment structure of Cargolux itself, in which HNCA holds a 35% stake.

At first glance, this is surprising, because China traditionally limits foreign companies (whether airlines or not) to a maximum holding of 25% in a Chinese venture, with the total foreign holding capped at 49%. But Beijing has shown flexibility in the past – Boeing, for example, is the majority owner of Boeing Shanghai Aviation Services – and Luxemburger Wort quotes Mr. Bausch as saying HNCA and Henan province have been granted an exemption that would allow Cargolux to take a 35% stake.

The newspaper also quotes Paul Helminger, Cargolux’s Chairman, as saying the carrier’s initial investment would be US$75 million. How this investment would be structured remains to be seen, but Helminger also said that China would offer subsidies of as much as $700 million.

Regarding fleet and routes, we are still in the dark. As we have reported in the past, Cargolux CEO Dirk Reich has indicated he expects the carrier to start with three 747 freighters, and add two more once the operation is well under way. He said both 747-400 freighters from the used market and new-build 747-8Fs were under consideration.

Cargolux has also said, and Mr. Bausch confirmed, that the plan is still for operation to commence in 2017, but until the Cargolux Board makes its decision public, the rest is speculation.

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