The $19 billion group is participating in a 15 billion yuan private placement, in exchange for about 3 percent of the carrier. Ctrip can also increase its stake to 10 percent within a year – which at the same price, would cost another $1 billion-plus. The two could hardly be any more different: a lucrative, commission-driven travel agency and a capital-intensive, indebted airline. Yet the alliance is vital for Ctrip and 45 percent-owned affiliate Qunar. The two former competitors made peace last year with a complicated share swap which fell short of a full merger. Qunar has since come under pressure after China Eastern and China’s other two top airlines pulled their sales from the site over a pricing dispute. A prolonged absence would have been very painful: the state-owned trio control 56 percent of China’s domestic market, according to analysts at HSBC. Qunar’s shares have fallen 19 percent this year. Get the full story at Reuters