[SHANGHAI] China will merge its three biggest freight airlines and build the combined entity[ into Asia's largest air cargo operator, a top aviation official was reported as saying.
"Currently, this work (the merger) is being actively pushed," the official Xinhua news agency quoted Zhou Laizhen, deputy chief of the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) as telling an industry forum.
China's top three cargo operators are the freight arm of Beijing-based flag carrier Air China, Shanghai-based China Cargo Airlines, and China Southern Airlines Cargo, headquartered in the southern city of Guangzhou, said the report.
China has the world second's largest air transport system but its cargo flight throughput grew just 7.8 per cent last year to 135.6 million tonnes.
According to International Air Transport Association statistics, Asia's biggest cargo airline by freight tonne kilometres in 2014 was Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific, followed by Korean Air. Worldwide they were number two and three behind global leader Emirates.
"The value of China's international air freight only accounted for 17 per cent of its total trade turnover in 2014," CAAC chief Li Jiaxiang told the Wednesday forum, compared to a global figure of 35 per cent.
China's imports slumped nearly 18 per cent year-on-year in May, the seventh straight monthly decline, while exports also dropped for the third consecutive month.
Growth in the world's second-largest economy dropped to 7.4 per cent in 2014, the slowest pace in nearly a quarter of a century, and this year has seen few signs of any reversal in the slowing trend.