Star Cruises has bought 20 per cent of Singapore budget airline Valuair in a deal that will allow the two companies to jointly offer fly and cruise holidays while helping to support Valuair's expansion in the region. With the purchase, Star Cruises becomes the single largest shareholder in the budget carrier, which launched its first flights to Hong Kong earlier this year. The two companies said in a joint statement yesterday that under the deal they would 'co-ordinate operations and jointly market attractive fly-cruise packages to provide passengers with a seamless, yet flexible, travel experience at attractive prices'. Nilesh Pritam, a spokesman for Valuair, declined to say how much Star Cruises paid for its stake, adding that the carrier was still in talks with other potential investors. 'We're hoping for a bit more money to come, so we can't say anything about numbers while we're still negotiating with the other parties,' Mr Pritam said. Valuair raised US$17 million late last year through a share sale to Asiatravel.com Holdings, a Singapore online hotel reservations company, and publishing firm Blu Inc Group. It had targeted raising a further US$10 million this year to help it compete against budget rivals - Singapore Airlines' (SIA) Tiger Airways and Qantas Airways' Jetstar Asia - as well as with SIA and SilkAir. 'We've abandoned that US$10 million target and will raise as much capital as we need to grow,' Mr Pritam said. He said funds raised would be invested in new aircraft and new routes. Star Cruises, which is controlled by Malaysian businessman Lim Goh Tong, is the world's third-largest cruise-line operator, running 17 ships under the Star Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Lines, Orient Lines and Cruise Ferries brands. Mr Lim also owns the Genting Highlands casino resort in Kuala Lumpur through his Malaysian-listed flagship, Resorts World. Star Cruises, which has ships based in Hong Kong, plans to develop Singapore into a cruise-line hub for the region, on par with global hubs such as Miami in the United States. More than 40 per cent of its 130,000 passengers a year boarded in Singapore, it said. About 33 per cent of them were from markets served by Valuair, and this number would expand as the carrier added flights to the mainland and India, it said.