China picks $16 billion worth of aviation projects for private investment

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China said on Thursday it would encourage private investment in 28 airport, drone and maintenance projects worth a total of 110 billion yuan ($16 billion), as part of its efforts to make the sector more globally competitive.

Eleven of those projects already have private investors, such as the Ezhou cargo airport in Hubei province that Chinese courier S.F. Holding 002352.SZ is investing in, the Civil Aviation Administration of China said in a joint statement with the National Development and Reform Commission.

The remaining 17, which include a flight training school, drone delivery projects and some support services for Beijing’s new airport, are seeking private funding, the statement added.

Among them are China National Aviation Holding Co, the state-owned shareholder of the country's flag carrier Air China 601111.SS0753.HK which wants partners for a logistics mixed-ownership reform project valued at 10 billion yuan.

TravelSky Technology 0696.HK, which provides information technology services to China's aviation and tourism industries, is also open to private investment in an aviation logistics information project, it said.

The regulators plan to open up more projects to private investment and will release details in due course, it added.

Beijing had said in January that it would ease investment access to its aviation industry while retaining its grip over key airlines and airports in sensitive regions. These reforms are also in line with a broader effort Beijing has been making to restructure its bloated state-owned industries.

China is the world’s fastest growing aviation market and is forecast to surpass the United States as the biggest from 2022, according to the International Air Transport Association.

Reporting by Brenda Goh; Editing by Himani Sarkar and Subhranshu Sahu