AirAsia exploring fund raising, joint ventures, additional investment options amid coronavirus squeeze

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Published: June 5, 2020 6:47 PM

The Malaysian budget carrier is in talks with “a number of parties” about joint ventures and collaboration that may lead to additional investment, it said in a statement.

AirAsia group, AirAsia Group, Fly Leasing Ltd, coronavirus, AirAsia Malaysia, AirAsia ventures, AirAsia leasing unit, latest news on air asiaAirAsia plans to reduce costs by at least 30% this year by deferring aircraft deliveries, cutting salaries and reworking its fuel hedging.

AirAsia Group Bhd. is evaluating capital-raising proposals from bankers and looking at potential partnerships as it tries to ease liquidity pressure that’s also having knock-on effects on aircraft lessor Fly Leasing Ltd.

The Malaysian budget carrier is in talks with “a number of parties” about joint ventures and collaboration that may lead to additional investment, it said in a statement. SK Group is reviewing a proposal to buy a small stake in the airline, though no decision has been made yet, a spokesman at South Korea’s third-biggest conglomerate said, without providing further details.

Last month, people familiar with the matter said AirAsia sent a memo to Malaysian banks as it sought to borrow 1 billion ringgit ($235 million) to help fund its operations. The carrier, which has posted losses for three of the past five quarters, is due to report first-quarter results later this month.

AirAsia is hardly alone in facing financial difficulties because of the coronavirus. Airlines globally are seeking funds, cutting jobs and deferring jet deliveries, while some have collapsed altogether.

AirAsia plans to reduce costs by at least 30% this year by deferring aircraft deliveries, cutting salaries and reworking its fuel hedging. The airline resumed some flights in Malaysia after suspending all services for much of April because of travel restrictions. The carrier’s joint ventures, spanning from Japan to the Philippines to India, halted most of their services through May.

News channel Astro Awani reported Friday that AirAsia Malaysia is planning to cut 172 pilot jobs, 111 cabin crew and 50 engineers. There was no mention of similar moves being taken by other AirAsia ventures.

Still, some signs of recovery are emerging for global aviation. American Airlines Group Inc. said Thursday it will have 74% more flights in July than this month. That sent its shares soaring the most on record. Governments are also looking at agreements to reopen routes between certain countries.

The financial squeeze has had an impact on aircraft lessors as airlines seek to defer payments. Moody’s Investors Service placed Fly Leasing’s ratings on review for downgrade on Thursday to reflect the “negative effects on aircraft lessors of the breadth and severity of the shock, and the deterioration in credit quality, profitability, capital and liquidity it has triggered.”

AirAsia’s leasing unit in 2018 sold 132 Airbus SE narrow-body aircraft and 14 engines to companies including Fly Leasing, in which it also received $50 million American depository shares, the equivalent of a stake of about 10%.

“The depth and duration of the drought in air travel volumes makes it more likely that lessors will need to make significant adjustments to their fleet investments to align with shifts in leased aircraft demand by airlines,” Moody’s said in a statement. “Residual values for certain leased aircraft will significantly and permanently weaken as airlines adjust capacity.”

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