MALAYSIAN timber tycoon Ting Pek Khiing has offered the governments of Brunei, Indonesia and Philippines each a 10% stake in his struggling start-up regional carrier Saeaga Airlines.

Ting's offer follows recent talks between Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohammad and Philippine president Fidel Ramos on establishing a joint regional carrier to serve the East ASEAN (Association of South-East Asian Nations) Growth Area (EAGA). Indonesia and Brunei have been asked to support the plan.

Saeaga was launched in late 1995 by Ting's Ekran company, with the strong political backing of Mahathir. It was originally intended that the East Malaysian state Governments of Sabah and Sarawak would each take a 40% stake in the airline, with Ting retaining the balance.

The two Governments have since failed to buy into the $59 million Ekran venture, or merge their two respective local state-run carriers, Sabah Air and Hornbill Skyways, into Saeaga. Ting has been looking for new backers.

While the Philippine Government is supporting a new regional airline based around Saeaga, with local carrier U-Freight interested in taking up Ting's 10% offer, Brunei and Indonesia appear to be less enthusiastic.

As a designated regional carrier, Saeaga would be able to operate scheduled services within the EAGA region, linking Brunei, Sabah and Sarawak, the Indonesian adjoining state of Kalimantan and the southern Philippine islands of Mindanao and Palawan.

Saeaga has already taken delivery of a new Canadair Regional Jet and two de Havilland Dash 8s. The airline is now operating charter services from Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, to the Malaysian island of Layang Layang and Mulu in Sarawak.


Source: Flight International