South Korea’s national flag carrier Korean Air on Monday announced it acquired the country’s number two in aviation — Asiana Airlines – for $1.6 billion in a deal expected to be completed next year.

The acquisition, if completed successfully, will make Korean Air the world’s 10th-biggest airline by fleets, Yonhap News reported.

Korean Air currently ranks the world’s 18th air carrier.

“The company made the decision to help the country’s airline industry continue to grow [amid uncertainties] and minimize the injection of public funds [into Asiana],” Korean Air Chairman Cho Won-tae said in a statement.

The two carriers control over 62% of the domestic air market share.

The Korean Airlines will be Asiana’s biggest shareholder with 63.9% after the acquisition.

Among the creditors of the Asiana Airlines, state-run Korea Development Bank creditors to Asiana Airlines will invest $722 million in Hanjin KAL, the holding company of the group, during the acquisition process.

South Korea’s Deputy Minister for Civil Aviation Kim Sang-do termed the move an “inevitable decision to integrate the country’s two biggest airlines to prevent them from making bigger losses amid the extended COVID-19 pandemic.”

Following the news of the merger of the top two air carriers, their shares jumped high at South Korea’s Stock Exchange outperforming others.

The Kumho Asiana Group conglomerate — which controls the Asiana Airlines — had decided in April last year to sell the carrier.

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