KATHMANDU: Nepali and Chinese investors have joined hands to invest in Himalayan Airlines, an international airline. The airline is scheduled to make its maiden flight on October 28 by flying from Kathmandu to either Lhasa or Chengdu. Two Nepali companies — Himalayan Infrastructure Fund (HIF) Aviation Investment and Yeti World Investment — and Tibet Airlines, a Chinese air service operator, on Tuesday, signed a joint venture agreement for investment in Himalayan Airlines, which was formerly known as Yeti Air International. The joint venture agreement was signed and exchanged between Cheng Yiru, chairman of Tibet Airlines Company Ltd, Prithvi Bahadur Pande, chairman of HIF Aviation Investment Company Ltd, and Bijay Shrestha of Yeti World Investment Pvt Ltd. Addressing the joint venture agreement signing ceremony, Pande said that the airline will have initial investment of Rs 2.43 billion ($25 million). “Nepali companies will have 51 per cent stake and Tibet Airlines will have 49 per cent in the airlines,” he said, adding that the airline will help enhance growth capacity of air passengers to Nepal and create employment opportunities. Himalayan Airlines has a permit to fly to 14 international destinations around the world. In the first year, the airline plans to start service with at least three Airbus 320 series aircraft. Cheng Yiru, chairman of Tibet Airlines, said that they will be adding wide-body aircraft to the fleet, depending on the need. He said that they aim to increase the investment in Himalayan Airlines to ‘$1 billion to $1.5 billion’ in five years’ period. To make the joint venture a success, Tibet Airlines will be providing all technical, managerial and marketing support. Tibet Airlines commenced in 2011 has joint majority shares from Air China and Tibet Provincial Government. It currently has a fleet of nine Airbus 320 aircraft and operates services to 24 destinations within China. The three investors of Himalayan Airlines plan to increase the fleet to a minimum of 15 aircraft within five years to grab the tourism potential here. They said they hope to capitalise on the inbound air passenger traffic to Nepal, which is expected to reach two million by 2020. In the programme, Chinese Ambassador to Nepal Wu Chun Tai said that the joint venture was the biggest foreign direct investment (FDI) in the aviation sector of Nepal from China. Expressing hope that the airline project initiated by companies of two countries will be a success, he said that the joint venture is a ‘new monument’ between the two neighbouring countries. So far, 1,400 Chinese investors have invested in Nepal in various sectors. Meanwhile, the Chinese ambassador also announced that China has pledged $15 million in cash to Nepal for disaster relief.
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