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Cathay Pacific to buy budget airline Hong Kong Express

A Cathay Pacific passenger plane prepares to take off from Hong Kong's international airport on March 13, 2019

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Cathay Pacific will buy low-cost carrier Hong Kong Express for $4.93bn Hong Kong dollars ($628m).

The purchase will be made in cash and through promissory loan notes, the company said in a stock filing.

Hong Kong Express, which flies to destinations across Asia, will become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Cathay Pacific.

Cathay Pacific has been overhauling its business to cut costs, and returned to profit in 2018.

“We intend to continue to operate Hong Kong Express as a stand-alone airline using the low-cost carrier business model,” a Cathay Pacific spokesperson said in a statement.

Hong Kong Express captures “a unique market segment” the spokesperson said, adding that the deal “represents an attractive and practical way for the Cathay Group to support the long-term development and growth of our aviation business”.

The transaction is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

Turnaround plan

Cathay Pacific returned to profit last year after two years of losses, after launching a cost-cutting programme.

The airline has been struggling against competition, particularly from low-cost Chinese carriers covering Hong Kong, mainland China and South East Asia.

Last year, it also became subject of a data breach in its IT systems, jeopardising the personal information of up to 9.4 million passengers.

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