PARIS, June 21 (Reuters) - Airline caterer Gategroup is planning to use the contacts of new owner HNA Group and its European heritage to make a mark in the fast-growing Chinese air travel market, its chief executive told Reuters on Wednesday.
Switzerland-based Gategroup was acquired last year by Chinese conglomerate HNA, and this year combined with former Air France-KLM division Servair.
The company, with annual sales of around 4.5 billion Swiss francs ($4.6 billion), says it currently has a strong presence in the Americas, western Europe, Africa, and in Asia-Pacific countries such as Japan.
“We don’t intend to be the only player in China. We’d like to be the most important, but it is a competitive market,” Xavier Rossinyol told Reuters at the Paris Airshow.
It is the first time Gategroup has had a chalet at the air show, where it has been enticing current clients and potential new customers with food cooked by Michelin-starred chefs.
Rossinyol said the plan was to combine the network of Servair, Gategroup and HNA in mainland China, and that he expected significant progress in this over the next year. As a Chinese company, HNA has better access to the key players such as airlines and airports, he said.
“The idea is to use HNA to access the market and then to bring our industrial standards on health, production and efficiencies,” he said.
The acquisition of Gategroup by HNA sent ripples through the airline catering market and rival dnata said in April it was also looking for more deals.
Lufthansa’s LSG unit is another competitor.
Rossinyol said Gategroup’s priority was growing its own business, but acquisitions could be possible.
“Yes there are gaps. For Gategroup we think we can do more acquisitions, but if we do an acquisition it’s because we can add value, like the combination with Servair.”
$1 = 0.9744 Swiss francs Reporting by Victoria Bryan; Editing by Mark Potter