American Airlines has agreed to pay $200 million for a stake in China Southern Airlines, the biggest of China's three major state-owned carriers, in a bid for a bigger share of the country's growing travel market.
American and China Southern will expand commercial cooperation, possibly in sales, airport facilities and code-sharing, the Chinese airline said in an announcement Tuesday through the Hong Kong stock exchange. It said the deal represents 2.76 percent of China Southern's shares and requires regulatory approval.
Foreign carriers are forging steadily closer ties with Chinese airlines to gain a bigger share of China's air travel market, which is growing strongly while travel in Europe and North America is leveling off. In exchange, Chinese carriers get access to experience and management skills.
China is forecast to pass North America over the next two decades as the biggest air travel market.
China's economic growth is slowing but tourism spending is rising as communist leaders encourage growth of service businesses in an effort to reduce reliance on heavy industry.