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NEWS UPDATES 30 May 2009

AirAsia plans $143m rights offer to offset rising debt

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Malaysian low-cost airline AirAsia is planning a 500 million ringgit ($143.1 million) rights offering as it expects debt level to climb this year, Reuters quoted its chief as saying Friday.

AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes said the airline has finalised the size of the planned issue at 500 million ringgit but it has not decided on the timing.

"(We are) still exploring," the executive told Reuters via a mobile phone text message when asked if he expects the sale share to happen this year.

AirAsia, Southeast Asia's largest budget carrier with a market capitalisation of $848 million, had said it expects borrowings to swell by as much as 2.1 billion ringgit this year as it takes delivery of 14 Airbus aircraft.

"In the context of 7 billion ringgit of debt and 27 billion ringgit of committed capex, we consider this level of leverage extreme and consider an equity issue a distinct possibility," said investment bank UBS in a note published after the airline's quarterly results.

AirAsia on Thursday said first-quarter net profit jumped 26 percent from a year ago to 203.15 million ringgit, helped by lower fuel costs and higher ancillary revenue.



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