Hong Kong-based airline Cathay Pacific Airways has said that it was postponing the completion of an airport cargo terminal for up to two years.
A spokesman said Cathay Pacific Services Limited (CPSL), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Cathay Pacific Airways Limited, had signed a supplemental agreement with the Airport Authority Hong Kong (AAHK) to defer the completion of its new cargo terminal "by a maximum of 24 months to mid-2013".
The spokesman said the decision to apply for the deferral of the cargo terminal had been taken "in response to market conditions brought about by the economic downturn".
"The deferral is aimed at better matching supply and demand in the air freight business given the current market outlook. It is also important for the company to maintain a strong balance sheet until the market strengthens."
The spokesman emphasised that Cathay Pacific remained completely confident in the future of Hong Kong as an international air cargo hub.
"Cathay Pacific remains fully committed to building and operating the third cargo terminal."
The spokesman added that under the agreement, CPSL would compensate the AAHK for the deferral. "While the company is not at liberty to disclose commercially sensitive information, it considers the compensation amount to be fair and reasonable."
Last week, Cathay Pacific published combined Cathay Pacific/Dragonair traffic figures for December 2008, which included "a substantial fall" in cargo and mail tonnage.
The two airlines carried a total of 115,232 tonnes of cargo and mail last month, down 23.9 per cent on December 2007, it reported, while capacity, measured in available cargo/mail tonne kilometres, fell by 14 per cent.
The cargo and mail load factor dropped by 5.7 percentage points to 62.9 per cent. "For the year, cargo and mail tonnage fell to 1,644,785 tonnes – down 1.6 per cent compared to a capacity rise of 0.7 per cent.