MALAYSIA AIRLINES (MAS) chairman Tajudin Ramli has confirmed plans to order new long-range widebody aircraft, worth $4 billion, by the end of the year, although he appears to rule out a decision in time for the Malaysian air show in early December.

The airline intends to purchase a mix of 25-30 additional Boeing 747-400s and smaller medium-capacity long-range aircraft, says Tajudin. Competing for the medium-capacity requirement are the Airbus A340, Boeing 777 and McDonnell Douglas MD-11.

A technical evaluation of the aircraft has already been undertaken, but a financial analysis of the different types still needs to be made. This will not be completed until after Malaysia's Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition (LIMA), which begins on 5 December. "We don't want to push ourselves and make decisions because of time frames. We must decide on the pure financial and technical data that we have," says Tajudin.

The MAS chairman had previously threatened to dispose of the airline's A330s and boycott any further Airbus aircraft orders, unless the carrier was given added flight frequencies between Kuala Lumpur and Paris (Flight International, 20-26 September).

The threats appear to have been withdrawn. "Paris is no longer important to us anymore, because we've got Amsterdam and maybe another location in Europe that offers us flexibility. It doesn't matter whether Paris is completely wiped out from our plans. We don't need Paris now," he says.

MAS in the meantime, is reported to be looking at ways of raising new finance to support its capital expenditure programme, including a new share issue. The airline has already amassed an outstanding debt of M$6.5 billion, ($2.6 billion) and this is set to rise even further.

The impact of the borrowings was clear in the group's latest half-year figures to the end of September, which showed a rise of more than 45% in interest payments, to M$210 million.

MAS nevertheless raised net profits to $154 million from last year's weak performance, on the back of a strong increase in traffic.

Source: Flight International