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March 30, 2017

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Ex-EVA Air chair plans return to airline industry

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Former EVA Air Chairman Chang Kuo-wei — ousted by his half-brothers in a board-room coup last year — will announce his comeback plan to the airline industry in the next few months, his spokesman was cited as revealing Wednesday.

The spokesman, Nieh Kuo-wei, made the remarks in response to reports that said Chang would launch a new airline this year, with plans to raise NT$2 billion to purchase 10 new aircraft, according to the Central News Agency.

Nieh, a former spokesman for EVA Air, was quoted by CNA as clarifying that the sum of NT$2 billion mentioned in the reports referred to the initial capital needed to set up the new airline, adding that more investment would be injected into the company in the future.

He said the new airline would definitely need airplanes, but the number of planes has yet to be determined, according to CNA. The airline may buy or lease planes, but it was rather impossible to buy all of the planes it needed, Nieh was cited as saying.

The discussion about the type of plane the new airline will fly is still going on with no final decisions having been made, Nieh said. The new company has not yet been founded but the plan was to formally begin flight operations within two years, he was quoted as saying.

The former EVA Air chair planned to unveil his plans later in the first half of 2017, Nieh said.

Chang was cited by a magazine as disclosing that he intended to launch Star Universe Airways this year, starting with routes in Southeast Asia.

He told the magazine that the airline industry was competitive, and that "everyone should work hard and use their passion to improve and innovate the field."

Asked why the new airline would choose to start with routes in Southeast Asia, Chang's spokesman said the many routes in Southeast Asia were open to competition with few restrictions.

Chang, a son of shipping magnate Chang Yung-fa, started at EVA Air, one of Taiwan's largest private airline companies in 1996 and worked his way to the top of the firm.

A licensed commercial airline pilot, Chang was ousted in 2016 during a bitter family feud among three half brothers over the legacy of the Evergreen Group after the death of their father. Nieh left EVA Air along with Chang.

Taiwan's domestic airline industry experienced a shakeup with the sudden closure of TransAsia Airways in late 2016. Since then, Far Eastern Air Transport has eyed the takeover of remnants of the firm in a deal that has yet to be finalized.

Previous reports had speculated that Chang would take over TransAsia.

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