SEPANG (March 1): Fresh after announcing its divestment of its aircraft leasing operations today, AirAsia Bhd confirmed that it is also planning to hive off its stake in travel booking site Expedia.
Group chief executive officer (CEO) Tan Sri Tony Fernandes said he expects the airline to conclude the sale of its 25% stake in AAE Travel, the operator of Expedia, by the end of this year
Reaffirming the group's strategy of disposing of its non-core assets and focus on core operations, Fernandes said the budget carrier is also looking to sell its "Santan" food business and its logistics and cargo operations.
"We have the logistics (business) and Datuk Shukrie (former Pos Malaysia CEO Datuk Mohd Shukrie Mohd Salleh) has joined us.
"We have a very strong logistics business to create an e-commerce courier company and create a very powerful cargo (arm)," Fernandes told a press conference after the official opening ceremony of AirAsia's headquarters RedQ.
When asked on the expected special dividend from the sale of the leasing operations, Fernandes said: "If it's my way, a large part of it (proceeds from the sale) will be paid out, but it's up to the board and shareholders to decide."
He added that there will also be other special dividends in the future because the airline has "a lot of assets that can be monetised".
Earlier in the day, AirAsia announced that it is divesting its leasing business to entities managed by BBAM Ltd Partnership for US$1.185 billion (RM4.62 billion), on the back of an enterprise value of US$2.85 billion (RM11.1 billion).
AirAsia's leasing unit Asia Aviation Capital Ltd inked three agreements to sell 84 aircraft and 14 aircraft engines to BBAM's units, and to lease back 79 aircraft and 14 aircraft engines.
Noting that most airlines are asset light, Fernandes said that the leasing market for planes is very competitive now.
"It was much more expensive to lease a plane when I first started. Leasing has been as attractive as bank financing so that's why we are taking more leased planes," he said.
Additionally, Fernandes said the airlines will be seeking a balance between owning and leasing airplanes. "What's most important to me is what generates the most cash and what generates the lowest cost [of operating]," he said.
"We generate our profits from selling air tickets, and from ancillary income. While leasing business is not a business the analysts value. That's why we dispose it off," he added.
Going forward, Fernandes said the group is targeting to carry 89 million passengers in 2018, up 25% from 71 million last year.