Adding flames to rumors that eLong (LONG) is having problems as a second-tier Chinese travel portal against much larger rival Ctrip.com (CTRP), the company has just announced the appointment of Guangfu Cui as its new CEO.

Cui will start work on October 8, 2007, the first day back after the Chinese National Day holiday. Henrik Kjellberg will step down as interim CEO of eLong but will remain chairman of the company. Kjellberg previously replaced Tom Soohoo, a former McDonald’s China and Nike executive who stayed briefly at the helm of the struggling Chinese travel portal. Soohoo took the reins from Justin Tang, the founder of the company.

Prior to joining eLong, Cui was the managing director for FedEx Kinko's China and worked previously for Procter & Gamble China for over 12 years.

eLong.com reported an operating loss as part of its unaudited financial results for the second quarter ended June 30, 2007. Gross margin in the second quarter of 2007 was 73.5%, a decrease of 364 basis points compared with 77.1% in the prior year period. The company says gross margin decreased due to the increased mix of lower margin air commissions and increased compensation expense related to investments in its call center talent and infrastructure.

The company recorded a net loss of CNY1.8 million for the second quarter, compared with a net income of CNY10.2 million for the second quarter of 2006. As of June 30, 2007 cash and cash equivalents were CNY1.17 billion, down 2% from CNY1.20 billion at December 31, 2006.

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