Hong Kong Government Takes Stake In Cathay Pacific

Filed Under: Cathay Pacific

It goes without saying that the past year has been particularly tough for Cathay Pacific. First Hong Kong faced massive protests, and then the coronavirus pandemic started. Cathay Pacific has been struggling to stay afloat, though at least there’s some good news for the airline.

Cathay Pacific gets $5 billion recapitalization

It has today been announced that Cathay Pacific will be getting up to 39 billion HKD (~5 billion USD) in funding, comprised of three tranches:

  • Cathay Pacific will issue 19.5 billion HKD in preference shares with detachable warrants to the Hong Kong government after requisite shareholders’ approval has been obtained
  • Cathay Pacific will launch an 11.7 billion HKD rights issue of shares to existing shareholders after requisite shareholders’ approval has been obtained
  • The Hong Kong government will provide a 7.8 billion HKD bridge loan facility to Cathay Pacific, available for drawdown immediately

The Hong Kong government will take a stake in Cathay Pacific

As it’s described, this funding will provide Cathay Pacific with sufficient capital to withstand the current downturn, and a stable financial platform from which it will be able to conduct the review of operations required to transform the business to reflect the new global travel market dynamics.

Beyond this additional 39 billion HKD in funding, Cathay Pacific may explore other opportunities to improve its capital structure, including accessing equity and debt capital markets in order to strengthen the company’s balance sheets.

The Hong Kong government will have a roughly 6% stake in Cathay Pacific, and is only planning on maintaining that stake in Cathay Pacific for at most five years, so this won’t be a long term investment. It’s also interesting to note that the government isn’t considering any further investments in airlines in Hong Kong, so Hong Kong Airlines won’t be getting any funding.

Struggling Hong Kong Airlines won’t get any help from the government

Cathay Pacific’s business model under review

By the fourth quarter of 2020, Cathay Pacific’s management team will recommend to the board the optimum size and shape of the Cathay Pacific Group going forward. A lot is under review at Cathay Pacific:

  • Will Cathay Pacific remain a premium airline, or could it become more low cost?
  • What will Cathay Pacific’s future fleet look like, and in particular what will happen to the 21 Boeing 777-9s that the company has on order?
  • Will Cathay Dragon remain a separate subsidiary, or are there options for the two airlines to work more closely together?

As Cathay Pacific Chairman Patrick Healy describes the situation:

“We are in a very dynamic situation. We need to make the right decisions to adapt to the new reality of global aviation and secure our long-term future. This will require re-evaluating all aspects of our business model in light of the rapidly changing macro and industry dynamics.

Inevitably this will involve rationalisation of future planned capacity compared to our pre-crisis plans, taking into account the market outlook and cost structure at that time.

Tough decisions will need to be made in the fourth quarter of this year to get Cathay Pacific to the right size and shape in which to compete successfully and thrive in this new environment. But once we have right-sized the airlines to adapt to our new reality, our long-term prospects remain as bright as ever, with an outstanding 70-year-old brand, a world-beating premium service offering through Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon, together with a newly acquired low-cost carrier in HK Express with a very exciting future, and an unrivalled position in the Greater Bay Area, a region which will be the growth engine for the world economy over the next few decades. Our short-term challenges are significant, but our long-term future remains bright.”

Could we see Cathay Pacific making changes to first class?

Bottom line

Cathay Pacific has had an incredibly rough year, between protests and then coronavirus. The airline has seen a 99% drop in revenue, as aviation to & from Hong Kong has more or less come to a stop.

It’s good to see that the airline is getting some support from the government, which will ensure that it can remain in business.

Now the big question is what Cathay Pacific will look like long-term, as the entire business is under review. This could have impacts on the business model, fleet, subsidiaries, products, and more.

Do you think this business review will lead to significant changes at Cathay Pacific?

  1. You mean the Communist Government of CHINA has taken control of Cathay Pacific.

  2. Cathay like Hong Kong is, sadly, on a one-way descent. HK people have been sold down the river.

  3. And now every CX employees who protested last year will get fired using COVID-19 as an excuse.

  4. Wow, the negativity of the first 3 replies is astounding. Maybe this will be a good thing for CX and its employees, and I can’t wait to see how the “new” CX will look.

  5. BOSflyer, the tone of the first three replies (including mine) reflects a widely held view in HK.
    Nothing in Hong Kong’s recent history suggests that this will be a good thing for CX employees, whose employees have been subject to arbitrary dismissal for private expression of their political opinions (for example, in social media). That was by CX but the order came from the Chinese government, which at this point and in contravention of the Joint Declaration is more or less running the HK government on policy issues like this.
    You don’t need to wait to see how the “new” CX will look, I can tell you now:
    – employees living in fear of losing their jobs
    – no questioning of China allegiance
    – political nonsense where it doesn’t belong e.g. flight route planning, use of language

    Swire made a strategic mistake with how they managed CX in the past five years, now we will all pay for it.

  6. @BOSflyer

    What makes you think I agree with the first 2 replies.

    If you read the whole post (do people ever read the whole post these days?) this is a government bailout in a package of a 5 year investment. This is good for CX.

    Nothing suggest CX as a product will change much from government ownership as the no details of how many voting rights or board member position CX have to give and overall is still a minority stake.

    Now I do suggest those employees will get fired purely because of politics and quid pro quo from the bailout.

    And for better or worse, it will be the new normal post COVID-19 that will reshape CX not some China ownership conspiracy.

  7. @BOSflyer, it’s the ugly truth. HK is continuing to lose to China and with USA no longer recognizing Hong Kong, HK is losing hope. And countries would be siding with China here obviously, cuz you know, BUCKS$$$. Cathay Pacific will never have it’s glorious days back (good old days when CX used to be the king), partly because of what’s going on in Hong Kong and COVID-19 (Funny enough, both of these problems have the same root cause, China!). This could once again end up in two ways, Hong Kong could assert independence or be sucked into the PRC. If HKG gains independence, China would immediately move to initiate a blockade and that’s a problem for CX (given the high China-HKG demand) and the influence Chinese Airspace has on CX’s network, and if HKG gets sucked into the Communist Country, then CX would be *forced* to shrink, employees fired for cost cutting *cough cough* (participating in protests) *cough cough*.

  8. Lol. Those anti single party authoritarian government owning airline should hate SQ as well.
    Singapore has no freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of public assembly is cleaner, safer, have better MRT, airport and airlines just like China does (Except airlines). Singapore even has more barbaric law like public caning for vandalism.
    Westerner hypocrisy at its best.

    Efficient government taking control of airlines is the best thing that can happen to the airlines except in this case. The protestors would just block the airport if not the highway to the airport making people not able to fly and intimidate rich chinese and Singaporean and other asian countries for that matter from visiting.

  9. Jkjkjk, good point re Singapore’s poor record on freedom of expression and press freedom, although I have not seen that affect Singapore Airlines the way it has Cathay.

  10. @ Ben Dover +1

    First, yes it is great news that CX is getting help. But who much will it costs CX and its workers in the end?
    CX will certainly has to slim down its fleet with the lack of pax and traffric, meaning laying off staffs etc., which is really sad.
    I like CX and enjoyed flying them, I have fond memories of great cabin crews and flights which I cherish. Will these be also a part of the past? I hope CX would not dare eliminate the great service attitudes as well as watering down their premium services.

    I do not like the approach and the policy China has taken against HK. I like travelling to HK and want to support the local HKers and their democratic convictions.
    But does flying CX in the future means supporting communist china? I am ambigious at the moment. I do not want HKers losing their jobs etc but I do want to to spend my money by supporting communist policies and making it successful.

  11. I always saw the story of CX as a metaphor for Hong Kong’s relationship with China. At one stage CX was what everyone would consider super premium, but slowly, with China’s influence, it eventually gets dragged down so that eventually becomes not that much better than the other regional (China) competitions.
    Just like Hong Kong, at one stage, it was a beacon for other Chinese cities to follow – but reality is very different.

  12. @ Pol

    I agree. Even when the Brits left, HK still has this unique international flair. A democratic society in which western people feel related. I felt, you have the exotic oriental lifestyle, but HK has the same conviction, attitude, in some cases the same upbringing like inthe west.
    Now in the last years, china is doing its outmost best to eradicate these. I support the HKers for their fight of freedom and their democratic rights.
    China should not feel threaten about this special status HK has since its founding. HK is a western society with chinese backgrounds. If China forces its communist policies, it will ruin the unique HK we know and cherish. It will make HK like any chinese mainland city.
    I hope the CCP let HK be as it has been. It may be geographically and ethnically chinese but its heart, conviction, attitude and upbringing is truely western.
    The HKers are the magic which makes HK special, when these have to go or be forced to comply to communist living, it will certainly ends this unique HK as it is.

  13. One point to clarify: I don’t want to talk much about politics but since there is quite a conversation going on, I’m just going to explain my views of this as a HKer.
    I fly Cathay most of the time tbn. Not because of its good service/food(although it’s ok), but because I don’t want a layover in places. Also, it actually makes me feel like home, as it’s a HK airline.
    The Chinese government had threatened the airline to fire all of the stuff that has protested last year, or else Cathay would not be able to operate flights into China. How sad it is, seeing that China has completely taken control of HK, but in the meantime, there’s nothing we could do. Even more protests won’t help at all.
    All in all, I’m quite happy that the HK government has given Cathay money(it should keep it from closing down in 1 year), but hopefully, it will remain its service currently, or else, I might be choosing another airline to fly with CX.

  14. As someone born in HK, I feel disappointed in the way China is going back on its promise, and the way the HK government has treated its citizens.

    That said, some commenters need to read the actual post. This is not a permenant investment. Essentially it’s a 5 year bailout loan.

  15. Every government that bailed out the airlines, the US included, should have done it in exchange for equity in my opinion.

  16. With or without the gov. bailout CX and HK should be left alone to pursue its polices without any interference from communist Beijing!
    This clash between democracy and communism in HK is inevitable. As long HKers fight for their rights and democracy and defy communism, Beijing will always lose in trying to regain the upperhand. They have thought being ethnically chinese is enough connection to secure HKers loyalty to communist china. Well, theCCP has been proven wrong! Even economic progress would not kill the conviction of HKers to pursue their own political society.
    As long as this flame of democracy in HKers hearts exists , I will support HK.

    As I have said before, I don’t support communism. Whatever economic success etc. china has or will have, it will be like..the term is often used hier in OMAAT..”putting lipstick on a pig! “.

  17. Without getting into a discussion of the politics involved in this bailout, I hope that my Cathay first class award ticket (booked through Alaska) remains valid next February.
    I’m thinking of booking a back-up flight on JAL (using Advantage miles) to be safe.
    Is that overkill or would you be looking at alternative/back-up flights now, while there is more availability?

  18. What is called “HK is losing to China”?
    HK’s prosperity is made from the position as the only bridge from a long closed country (China) to the rest of the world while being a main transport hub in the past.

    Since HK’s loss to China outnumbers the potential contribution it would made to China in near future due to 2019 protest, it’s natural for China to de-prioritize the city. Why some ppl above are so sad about it? Just because it holds the colony era atmosphere? it’s 2020, not 1920.

    Speaking about Britain, it could be the meanest country in the history. I never see a political entity except Britain issues passport that has a stay limit in its own place and can only use visitor’s lane – that is BNO passport. Even if CCP infiltrated Macau early in 1960s, Portugal still gave Macau citizens full citizenship in 1999.

  19. I am willing to see CX accepting government bail-out (even if the money comes from the Chinese central government) rather than seeing it die. It is the only global airline whose *real* home is HK. Despite what has happened recently, HK is still a place where many people calls home. And for what is worth, can we please not be so political ever time?

  20. @Darren
    Can Youn please stop being so political about an airline bail-out post? You can support HK by being there and fighting for its future, instead of posting unrelated political comments in an airline post. And for what it is worth, CX surviving the crisis will keep helping connecting HK with the rest of the world.

  21. CCP and China take over yet another beloved HK institution. Expect crackdown on non-ccp crew, protest participation. As an AA EXP, I’ll avoid transiting through HK and CX in general.

    No doubt, Trump will make China pay.

  22. @ Carl

    It is my personal comment, you do not need to like it!
    CX’s bailout and its recent development is highly politised. As the communist regime is oppressing the rights of CX staffs. China can just help financially and excuse my following expression: ” shut the xxxx up!”. It should not be meddling in HK affairs and trying to turn HK laws compatible to communist policies. It has enough problems with their mainland people and they should stick their nose to it, but the CCP is as it is, it needs to show strenght in HK inorder not to lose face! And that is the problem with the CCP, fearing to lose face domestically and internationally.

  23. @darren – absolutely. Us americans need to set the standard for human rights globally. We stand against a police state, for free speech, and freedom for all!

  24. @Rober MacNamara

    Yep, Us americans need to set the standard for human rights globally.

    George Floyd is the poster child for how we are doing !!!!
    @Darren is the poster child for how we successfully brainwash other nations !!!
    @Carl is the victim of civil (proxy) war caused by @Darren’s brainwash !!!

    And if you don’t understand sarcasm, you will probably give Trump 4 more years.

  25. A sad day for Cathay and generally, Hong Kong. All those mismanagement by Chinese government……

  26. @Darren
    Maybe America and its allies + NATO should stop meddling in other countries business first before asking China to stop meddling with HK which is under their sovereignty!!!
    Should I start a list of what wreck havoc the US has made since cold war?
    The US literally meddled in foreign election and train rebel and installed leader deemed favorable to US despite their human rights record. Stop being world’s police. We had enough shit to deal in this country.
    Let CCP do whatever they want with their citizens. Yes HK is part of China.

    @Robert MacNamara
    Who the hell is US? world police? US committed is one of the largest human rights violator in the world. Do you know how many proxy wars were we involved in during cold war? The CIA propaganda created civil war.
    US government do not care about human rights! They only care about projecting their power. Even Dalai Lama said that himself that CIA helped Tibet only to further their ANTI CHINA agenda not to fight for the TIBETANS.
    All the neutral europeans countries must be laughing at your jokes. We don’t even have the most basic human rights like affordable health care.

    Long live CX. Long live national security law. Long live every sovereign nation in the world.
    I actually dislike the CCP. But what I disliked more is uninformed person. I’m actually more like a Singapore PAP person. Way more strict and cruel against idiots and way more efficient and not afraid of the CIA. Look at Singapore, their cleanliness, their infrastructure, airport and SQ. Revered by people in this forum.

  27. @eskimo – i voted for both clintons, obama, W (second time), al gore Dukakis, mondale, jimmy carter, and johnson. I was 21 when the civil rights got passed. I’m a rich black boomer.

    Don’t be jealous, zoomer.

  28. I’m both a HKer and American. There are lots of similarities with the crisis both countries (special district for HK) are facing at this time. The difference with being American is that WE still have a choice. “We”, as a nation, chose DT to be our president (with Electoral College). We chose to “accept” police brutality against minorities by ignoring it for decades. If enough American, with the same political view, vote the same way, our voice could be heard. This is the result of Obama… and in reverse… as well as Trump. HKers has NO choice. HKers are stuck with whatever is given to them. United States equals hope to many HKers and Hong Kong equals despair. I agree that HK NEVER has the freedom that is similar to the United States and we should never expect the same level of freedom as a HKer. We were never British citizens and never had the same rights as BC…. yet we “felt” differently with the British rule. We were never rejected to open a public TV station that doesn’t serve the interest of the government. Despite whatever crimes we committed, we were never worried about beaten up by police officers without knowing their serial number. We were never worried about opening an anti-government book store and be taken away from the government to “apologize” for some fictional “crime” committed. All those events had happened BEFORE HK is no longer a “special district”. The city that we once loved is dead. Those that are capable should leave and accept Hong Kong as it stands today. Hong Kong will become just like any other city in China (which I know it’s a good thing to many people).

  29. @ jkjkjk

    Alright now we know your love to communist chinese nationalism who enjoys being totured, humiliated, patronised. I do not like SM!
    I despised people who have not got any “self worth” and wish to be a “blind follower” for the rest of their lives.
    We know how SIN works. It is a fine destination for holiday and for people who likes to park their millions away from their tax authorities! In away SIN is not so different in some ways to a totalitarian regime. They just know how to sell to its people and the foreigners alike.
    My love for chinese food and HK does not make me a blind over exited blinded communist pet dog!


    What are you smoking up there in your igloo! Brainwashed by whom? You sound more like a chinese commie bot who hates to hear bad but truthful things about china.

    @ ichan
    Sorry to hear such pain in your words. HKers will never stand alone. The west has an eye directly to china. Not everytime is christmas for the CCP.

  30. @Darren
    CIA enhanced interrogation techniques is not torture, it’s interrogation. Chinese concentration camp is TORTURE AND AGAINST HUMAN RIGHTS.
    You don’t see the hypocrisy here? Patriot act basically allow anyone including us citizens to be picked up without due process and can be put in blacksite. You’re the blind followers. All I see is that US created havoc in many part of the world. They only worry about HK not because they stand for human rights but because they’re threatened by China emergence as a global super power.
    Stop being blinded by your government. I’m not chinese and not american. In fact i was a victim for both government. US government installed a dictator in my country regardless his human rights record. They just want pro US dictator.
    I just said I like singapore PAP not the CCP.
    They have more economic freedom than americans.

  31. I had no problem flying CX First during this sh*tshow of HK, and I will continue to do so after this bailout as long as the service quality remains good. Does anyone really care about the so-called human rights issue, especially when you are pursuing luxury travels all over the world? As far as I concern countries like Turkey, UAE or Qatar are also no role models for human rights problems, but I don’t see people taking issues with flying TK, EK, or QR. Admit your hypocrisy and stop yelling for things that have nothing to do with you.

  32. MKLDH,
    Exactly Too many hypocrites… US has so many allies with countries with questionable human right records but they seem to have worst sentiment for anything chinese and make it worst in the world. Hats off to them though. Seems like the propaganda is at least working.

  33. Oh enough with this sentimentalizaton already, folks in the comment section. CA and CX have been mutual shareholders (30%) for a decade or so… If this ship has sailed it sailed a long time ago.
    Getting a government bailout this time does not change the airline’s already close relationship to Beijing. Cathay’s been making decisions these past few months almost like they knew this bailout was definitely happening, at least to me it seems. Need anyone be reminded that Cathay is owned by (and a significant part of) Swire or Swire’s huge footprint in China?
    On that mark, posting angry comments at the CCP and having heated debate about honestly the more insignificant degeneration on the situation in Hong Kong and somehow making this revolves around the US’ move to ‘derecognize’ Hong Kong (I use the quotes because DT’s order was vague and in-executable and was more like the most recent bluff to flash at Beijing, at least for now) is probably just and reasonable and sweet, but it is too little and it is about 12 years too late.

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