Cambodia to launch new carrier this year

Cambodia is expected to launch a new airline later this year after a deal was struck between one of the country's biggest tycoons and Philippine conglomerate San Miguel Corporation.

Kith Meng, chairman of Royal Group -- a hotel, media and telecoms empire -- inked the deal late on Tuesday with the Manila-based firm, which already owns a controlling stake in Philippine Airlines (PAL), according to a statement.

The Cambodian businessman will retain a 51 percent share of the newly-minted carrier -- Cambodia Airlines -- the statement said, adding that the Philippine company will own the remaining 49 percent.

The new airline, the country's second, will "contribute to Cambodia's economic growth by creating employment opportunities, bringing investors and building a strong aviation industry", Kith Meng said in the statement.

Royal Group's chief financial officer Mark Hanna told AFP that domestic flights could begin as early as June this year with international routes expected to begin in October.

"There is a huge growth in tourism and that has a direct impact on aviation," Hanna said, predicting the Cambodian aviation industry will surge over coming years.

The southeast Asian country launched its first national airline, Cambodia Angkor Air, in 2009, after a previous effort folded in 2001.

More than 20 foreign airlines, including Japan Airlines and Qatar Airways, currently operate flights to Cambodia.

San Miguel has been aggressively branching out into new ventures like oil refining, aviation, toll road operations, and power generation to beef up its core businesses that includes a brewery that is now in its 123rd year.

Last month the firm announced its consolidated net profit surged 57 percent to 27.6 billion pesos ($677.55 million).

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