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Hong Kong Airlines

HNA Group-controlled Hong Kong Airlines hit by three high-level resignations

  • Tang King-shing resigned late last month as vice-chairman of the carrier’s board
  • CFO and co-chairman have also left, sources say
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 December, 2018, 7:37pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 January, 2019, 2:11pm

Hong Kong Airlines has been rocked by the resignations of its co-chairman, vice-chairman and chief financial officer.

Tang King-shing, Hong Kong’s former police chief, resigned late last month as vice-chairman of the board at the carrier, citing personal reasons. Chief financial officer Jacky Lui Jiaqi and chairman Zhang Kui have also left, two sources said.

The resignations come as HNA Group – the debt-ridden Chinese conglomerate which controls the carrier – seeks to offload, or cut, its stake in Hong Kong Airlines and Hong Kong Express.

The airline’s website lists among its leadership newly appointed chairman Hou Wei, president Wang Liya, vice-presidents Vitoo Zhan Xuewei and Ben Wong Ching-ho, and chief marketing officer George Liu Jiang.

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Names removed from that list since October include co-chairman Zhang, who has decided to pursue other interests. It was not clear when he left the company. Lui resigned as finance chief on November 16 and left on December 7, a source said.

Zhang was co-chairman along with Mung Kin-keung, who is the chairman of entertainment company China Star Entertainment. It was unclear whether Mung remained in his post.

In a statement, an airline spokeswoman said: “Mr Tang King-shing stepped down as vice-chairman from the board of directors of Hong Kong Airlines Limited on 20 November, 2018. Mr Tang will continue his support for Hong Kong Airlines as an adviser to the management.”

Tang is understood to have wanted to spend more time on public service.

Hong Kong Airlines is the city’s third-biggest carrier, after its arch-rivals Cathay Pacific Airways and Cathay Dragon. The carrier has challenged Cathay Pacific’s dominance of long-haul routes in recent years by expanding to North America. But mounting losses at the company and HNA have forced it to shrink its ambitions.

The Post reported previously that the airline had pushed back the delivery date for new Airbus A350 and A330 aircraft and paused the expansion of its network to London and New York, previously targeted for the end of 2018. With 38 passenger planes, it is some way off its plan to grow its all-Airbus fleet to 50 by the end of this year, as originally targeted.

Meanwhile HNA has been attempting to offload tens of billions of US dollars worth of assets worldwide, shrinking the once-imperious, acquisition-hungry company headquartered in Haikou, Hainan province.

HNA reshuffled its top leadership in the wake of the death of co-chairman Wang Jian in France in the summer. The executive was said to have been at the forefront of a massive spending binge worth US$50 billion.

David Yu, adjunct professor of finance at New York University Shanghai, said that since Wang’s death, which left a single chairman in Chen Feng, management changes had been working their way down the hierarchy, leading to the recent changes.

“The end of the year is a normal time to do the management restructuring, before the important Chinese New Year holiday season for the airline,” he said.