Chongqing-based China Express Air is on course to be the first listed Chinese regional airline with a proposed initial public offering on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange later this year.

China Express said it plans to issue up to 40.5 million shares on the Shenzhen bourse and raise nearly 1.68 billion yuan (244 million US dollars).

The funds will be used to purchase aircraft and engines and establish an aviation training school, according to its prospectus released on the website of the China Securities Regulatory Commission.

Founded in 2006, the airline operates a fleet of 28 CRJ-900ER planes on scheduled passenger flights to more than 70 destinations across China from bases at Chongqing, Dalian, Guiyang, Hohhot and Xi'an.

"The demand for fast transportation has exploded in third- and fourth-tier cities," said Professor Zou Jianjun at the Civil Aviation Management Institute of China's department of economic management.

"In the next three to five years, the growth rate of the regional air market in China will be much faster than major air routes, with a growing demand for ecotourism and agricultural products in smaller cities," he said.

China is making structural adjustments to air transport capacity and putting increasing efforts into developing international and regional routes, Zou said.

Major domestic routes face competition from high-speed trains, he added.

In the wake of the listing of budget carriers Spring Airlines and Juneyao Airlines on the A-share market in 2015, China Express is set to become the eighth domestically listed airlines if it receives regulatory approval for the IPO.

According to its prospectus, China Express specializes in regional routes, with most of its aircraft 100-seater jets. Regional air routes account for 95 percent of its total business, with nearly 60 percent of flights having flying times of less than one hour.

In the first nine months of 2016, China Express achieved sales revenues of 1.92 billion yuan (279 million US dollars), and profits of 329 million yuan (48 million US dollars).



Editor: Zeng Yunheng