Monday 14 November 2011

Red flag for Tony's Caterham Jet?

With Fernandes, who controls AirAsia, uncharacteristically silent on the news report yesterday, many analysts do not know what to make of the idea.
Kuala Lumpur: If analysts were stumped by the share swap between AirAsia Bhd founders and Khazanah Nasional Bhd earlier, they are rendered speechless by Tan Sri Tony Fernandes' purported super-premium carrier proposal.

It was reported that the airline is to be known as Caterham Jet, and will compete head-on with Qantas' upcoming RedQ super-premium airline.

With Fernandes, who controls AirAsia, uncharacteristically silent on the news report yesterday, many analysts do not know what to make of the idea.

A news daily quoting unnamed sources reported that Fernandes plans to start his own regional super-premium airline with a Bombardier aircraft fleet flying out of Subang in May 2012.

Checks with officials in Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd and the Department of Civil Aviation, however, showed that neither had been approached on the idea.

According to sources, Fernandes is yet to apply for an air service licence (ASL) or air service permit (ASP) to start a new airline.

An ASL is for scheduled operations (commercial), while ASP is for non-scheduled (charter) operations.

The next step would be to apply for an air operator certificate.

MAS has also not applied for a new licence yet.

It is also understood that there has been no change to Ministry of Transport's directive that Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport (Subang Airport) only caters to turboprop aircraft and corporate jets.

"Such a move by Fernandes does seem like it is going against its collaborative agreement with MAS and would hurt MAS' premium plans," OSK Research analyst Ahmad Maghfur Usman told Business Times.

He opined, however, that should the airline operate 20-30 seater aircraft for the super-rich, it should not affect MAS' operations.

Another issue raised was whether the government would agree to such plan.

"The whole concept of the deal between AirAsia and MAS was to have a healthy ecosystem in the aviation industry. How would this fit in with that? It appears to be at odds with it," said an analyst who declined to be named.

Another analyst declined to comment much since details of the plan were still sketchy.

"What's the definition of super-premium, is it first-class or business class?

"Subang is still very much for turboprop and private jet operations. Will the government be willing to reverse that directive. It's still too early to say anything," he said.

Fernandes could not be reached for comment.
I don't like the way AirAsia has two daughter companies in Indonesia and Thailand which it owns for about 49%, but that is still understandable to a certain degree given the company laws in those countries.
I don't like the way AirAsiaX suddenly popped up out of the ashes of FAX, while only owned by AirAsia for a small part (20% with an option to increase this to 30%):
I don't like the deal with MAS, where Tony Fernandes suddenly became Director and one of the largest shareholders (through his holding company) of MAS.
And I don't like the above proposed deal regarding Caterham Jet.
I see everywhere "conflict of interest" and "related party transactions". This is a nightmare scenario from a Corporate Governance point of view.
Tony was at the right time at the right moment and yes, I have to agree, he fully took charge of the opportunity presented to him, hired lots of people, got things going with his entrepeneurial flair. Full credits to that.
But there was absolutely no reason to structure his holdings in the above way, he could easily have done things in the right, transparent way, grouping all airline companies under one holding company, with the minority shareholders investing in the holding company, minimizing the effects of related party transactions.
When things go good and the share price of AirAsia rises, nobody will complain. However, this could very easily change when things do not go well.

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