Timing and route rights key to AirAsia X IPO: Azran

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AirAsia X chief executive Azran Osman-Rani has put securing route rights for the airline's future expansion as one of the key provisos in moving ahead with its planned public listing.

The Malaysian low-cost long-haul carrier last year outlined plans for an IPO and has now taken its first steps as it begins evaluating responses to its recent RFP with a view to selecting its privatisation advisor shortly.

Speaking to ATI during an interview in London, Azran said there are a number of considerations to be looked into, including the valuation of the company, the size of the offering and whether to look for a secondary listing.

"One of the big questions is timing," he said, noting how in recent years volatile fuel prices and other global events narrowed the window of opportunity for IPOs to more like a matter of months. "Right now is not good timing," he said, pointing to high fuel prices and unrest in the Middle East, although he added that this could quickly change.

"We've got to be ready and take the opportunity when we can. But the good thing is we are not in a position where we are in a hurry because we need investment immediately," he said. Pointing to its cash balance and financing being pretty much locked in for aircraft deliveries up to 2012, Azran said the airline could wait until the end of 2012 or 2013 if necessary.

He also said securing more routes rights is key. "We would not proceed with the IPO if we do not make real progress on routes. At the moment we are getting the routes, but it's piecemeal. It would be tough to get global investors to support us buying aircraft if there is no guarantee we will have the rights," he said. "But we are making substantial progress. Malaysia knows it has to step up if it's going to compete."

"I'm confident. We are already seeing written political intent," Azran added, pointing to intent to increase frequencies and routes rights to serve important economic destinations. "It's a matter of time."