Nas Air talks down IPO, profitability forecast

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Nas Air has appointed Saudi Fransi Bank as lead arranger and Deloitte as adviser for its upcoming initial public offering (IPO), but the "internal process" is in the nascent stages and there is no timeframe for a flotation.

The Saudi carrier is also tempering earlier predictions of turning over its first annual profit in 2013, chief executive François Bouteiller indicates.

"We have started the internal process to gear the company for the IPO, or to look how and when," he confirms. "The first step of the process is appointing the financial adviser and appointing the bank to co-ordinate with the Capital Markets Authority.

"Working inside the organisation to prepare for an IPO is an important step. But when, how, how much is still not defined."

Sulaiman Al Hamdan, chairman of parent company Nas Holding, had previously told Arabian Business that the IPO would likely occur in the first quarter of 2014. He further predicted that Nas Air will achieve its first annual profit this year.

But Bouteiller also downplays expectations of moving into the black in 2013, saying it will be "challenging" given several capital-intensive commitments.

"We're aiming to do that this year. We're very close to it, but it might be tough," he says. "Our plans - re-fleeting, expanding, spreading out domestically - it's a very large investment. Entering Dubai Word Central is another investment."

The Saudi carrier posted "a number of consecutive months" of profitability in 2012, Bouteiller notes, though it ended the year with a small loss.

Nas Air operates a fleet of 10 Airbus A320s, six Embraer 190s and two E-195s. The Embraers are being gradually phased out, while 10 of its 20 A320s on order will arrive this year.