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Air China

CAAC choice as Air Macau head divides shareholders

PUBLISHED : Monday, 27 January, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 27 January, 1997, 12:00am

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Divisions have emerged among shareholders of Air Macau following the appointment of a Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) official as its chief executive.


Li Keli, a senior Beijing figure with CAAC - the Chinese aviation regulator - is expected to assume the top role at the Portuguese enclave's flag-carrier from the start of next month.


A subsidiary of CAAC, China National Aviation Corporation (CNAC), holds a 51 per cent-stake in Air Macau and is believed to have been the driving force behind the appointment of Mr Li as chief executive.


The appointment is understood to have generated concern among Air Macau's other shareholders, who were lobbying for an existing senior CNAC representative on the carrier's board to take over the position.


The CNAC representative, Zhou Yunda, currently is joint deputy chairman of Air Macau along with a Portuguese figure, Carlos Pimentel.


Mr Zhou is understood to have been strongly supported by non-Chinese representatives at Air Macau to take the top role, because of his intimate knowledge of the carrier and overseas experience.


Mr Zhou - who is acting as chief executive until Mr Li arrives - has more than six years' experience in the aviation industry in the US, among a host of other qualifications.


He has been with Air Macau since its inception.


The airline - which was founded late in 1994 and began operations a year later - is a Macau-incorporated Sino-Portuguese joint-stock company.


The remaining 49 per cent of Air Macau is held by Portuguese flag carrier TAP, Stanley Ho's casino company STDM, the Macau Government and a number of small Portuguese and Macanese investors.


Some of the concern expressed by representatives of the minority shareholders is believed to relate to the method by which the appointment was made, with little consultation by Chinese aviation officials with Air Macau's minority investors.


Mr Li's appointment follows the departure of Singaporean former chief executive Ng Kian-wah in December - a move revealed by Business Post.


Following an inauspicious start, Air Macau recently increased its seat occupancy rates and had its first profitable month last October.


Mr Li's move to the top job has been widely interpreted as a bid by Chinese aviation officials to capitalise on the carrier's rapidly-expanding route network on the mainland.


It also is seen as a final move by CNAC to put its stamp on Air Macau.