South Korean flag carrier Korean Air said on Thursday it had finalised a deal to buy a 44 percent stake in troubled Czech Airlines (CSA) in a bid to expand lucrative long-haul routes to Europe. With the deal signed on Wednesday, Korean Air has become the second-largest shareholder in the state-run carrier following Czech Aeroholding, which holds a 51.7-percent stake, Korean Air said in a statement. Korean Air, the South's top airline operator with a fleet of 155 aircrafts flying to 45 countries, paid 2.64 million euros ($3.44 million) for the stake. The company was the only bidder for the loss-making air carrier put up for sale by the Czech state. Prague approved the deal in March. Operating a fleet of 26 planes, CSA posted a loss of 241 million koruna ($12.2 million) in 2011. "With the share purchase complete, we will be able to expand our presence in Europe and globally more actively," Korean Air said. The company said it would use the Czech capital as one of its major transfer points for its flights to European cities including Paris or Zurich and vowed to strengthen marketing ties with CSA.