While it had considered the possibility in the past, including before Covid, Air China's need to boost profitability has added fresh momentum, though nothing is likely to happen imminently, the report added.

Air China has spoken to lenders to gauge the availability of financing should it eventually decide to proceed with a deal, the report said, adding that considerations are still at a very preliminary stage.

China's flagship airline is Cathay's second-largest shareholder, behind manager Swire Pacific Ltd and its 45% stake.

Cathay Pacific said Swire Pacific remains completely committed to the company but declined to provide further details on the stake talks.

Air China did not immediately respond to Reuters' request for a comment.

(Reporting by Gnaneshwar Rajan in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Nilutpal Timsina; Editing by Janane Venkatraman)