SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Air China Ltd (SS:) has no plans to take over Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd (HK:), an independent director of the state-owned Chinese carrier told the South China Morning Post newspaper.

“Based on what I know, I wouldn’t think that is anywhere on the agenda, no way,” Air China non-executive director Stanley Hui told the newspaper when asked if the carrier, a 30% shareholder, might seek to buy Cathay outright.

The Hong Kong airline has become the biggest corporate casualty of anti-government protests after China demanded it suspend staff involved in, or who support, demonstrations that have plunged the former British colony into a political crisis.

Cathay Chairman John Slosar last week announced plans to step down in November, less than three weeks after CEO Rupert Hogg left amid mounting regulatory scrutiny.

Air China is Cathay’s second-largest shareholder, behind manager Swire Pacific Ltd (HK:) with a 45% stake. Long-time Swire executive Patrick Healy was last week appointed as Slosar’s replacement.

Some analysts have said it would be logical for Air China to take over the remainder of Cathay in the future.

However, Hui told the South China Morning Post that any Beijing-led moves that changed Cathay Pacific’s ownership would send a wrong signal to foreign investors.

Air China could not be reached immediately for comment.

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2019-09-08