China's HNA Group, through its Hainan Airlines (HU, Haikou) subsidiary, says it has completed its acquisition of a 23.7% stake in Brazil's Azul Linhas Aéreas Brasileiras (AD, Sao Paulo Viracopos) thus becoming the LCC's largest shareholder in terms of economic interest.

Following the transaction, valued at USD450 million, Hainan Airlines will gain three seats on Azul's board.

"The investment has paved the way for the two air airlines to cooperate through the development of global networking synergy, code sharing, new route development, frequent flyer program, marketing programs and cargo cooperation, as well as other strategic initiatives in the region," a statement said. "Moreover, both parties will benefit from the substantial passenger traffic between two very strong global trade partners – China and Brazil."

Cooperation between Azul and Hainan Airlines has been growing in recent months with a number of initiatives already announced.

This year alone, Azul has said it would transfer up to 1,700 flight crew to HNA Group as part of its cost-reduction plan. HNA Group has, in turn, agreed to take delivery of two of Azul's three A350-900s that were to have been delivered in 2018 as part of a lease agreement with AerCap.

The two have also pledged to open up flights between Brazil and China using Lisbon as a stopover. The choice of Lisbon as an intermediate point is significant given that Hainan Airlines recently acquired 25% convertible bonds in TAP Portugal (TP, Lisbon) from Azul thus gaining a seat on the Portuguese carrier's board as well.