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By Jessica Jaganathan and Florence Tan
SINGAPORE, Oct 20 (Reuters) - Asia's biggest jet fuel buyer, China Aviation Oil, aims to expand its operations overseas to provide fuel to meet a boom in the number of Chinese flying overseas, the firm's chief executive said.
CAO is refocusing on its core business to tap a growing appetite for Chinese passengers to travel abroad, its chief executive Meng Fanqiu said.
"With the changes in the market, we're making some adjustments (to our strategy) and we're focusing on our core product which is jet fuel," Meng told the Reuters Global Commodities Summit.
"There are still a lot of opportunities, especially overseas as Chinese airlines are flying globally."
Last year, China's outbound leisure travellers topped 100 million, a new record. That number is expected to rise 10 percent this year as countries including the United States, France and Australia relax visa policies.
To meet this demand for jet fuel, CAO is scaling back some of its trading of other oil products. It halted its petrochemical trading this year due to weak Chinese demand and rising credit risks.
CAO's market share in China has fallen to 30 percent from a peak of 40 percent due to a rise in domestic refining capacity and production of jet fuel.
Faced with hotter domestic competition, the company will focus on trading in bonded jet fuel, which is exclusively for the use of CAO's parent company, China National Aviation Fuel Group, to supply for international flights, Meng said.
CAO plans to expand into international markets by first supplying fuel to Chinese airlines overseas and then to other airlines.
In Los Angeles, for instance, CAO started supplying jet fuel to three major Chinese airlines and later to Taiwan's Eva Air and Emirates Airlines and now has a 15 percent market share since starting U.S. operations in 2012.
"We have demand for 50,000 tonnes of jet fuel a month and we can ship jet fuel from Asia to North America, Los Angeles, to form a supply chain," Meng said.
The company wants to cash in on more arbitrage opportunities. For instance, it shipped two medium-range sized jet fuel cargoes from South Korea and China to the United States earlier this year.
CAO is also looking to expand investments in oil-related assets. For instance, in Europe where it set up a representative office in late 2013, CAO is looking at logistics and merger opportunities.
It also considering turning the London office into a full trading subsidiary, possibly in the second half of 2016.
"We are mainly looking at Europe because the U.S. market is open, so anyone can use their facilities," Meng said. "We are also looking at Australia, mostly airport refueling facilities and at diesel demand in the mining sector."
Follow Reuters Summits on Twitter @Reuters_Summits (Editing by Ed Davies)