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AirAsia coy on report of portfolio sale to Castlelake

AirAsia refuses to comment on a report that it will sell 30 aircraft to Castlelake, in what would be its second major portfolio transaction this year.

Citing unidentified sources, a Reuters report says that Castlelake won the $800 million deal after beating out other US funds and lessors, as well as Chinese-backed leasing companies.

It is not clear if all of the jets are presently in the AirAsia Group fleet, or if it includes some aircraft from its orderbook of 272 A320neos, 100 A321neos and four A320ceos.

AirAsia says that it is not making any comment on the report at this time, and has not issued a statement to the Malaysian stock exchange confirming that any deal has been done.

Castlelake also declined to comment when approached by FlightGlobal, noting that there were confidentiality provisions it has to abide by.

Flight Fleets Analyzer shows that the carrier’s group fleet is comprised of 188 A320ceos and 34 A320neos. Of those, AirAsia is listed as the owner of 74 of the A320s, including 54 A320ceos.

If confirmed, the deal would be consistent with comments by AirAsia Group chief executive Tony Fernandes in a September interview. At that time he told FlightGlobal that the airline had around 40 A320ceos it would like to sell as it transitions towards a fleet of A320/A321neos.

Such a transaction would likely generate $400-$500 million in additional cash.

In March the carrier announced a deal to sell the portfolio of its leasing unit, Asia Aviation Capital, to BBAM, FLY Leasing and Incline B. That $1.18 billion deal covered 84 A320s and 14 engines, as well as 48 aircraft from the carrier’s forward orderbook and options on a further 50.

That allowed AirAsia to announce a special dividend of 40 Malaysian sen per share that will be paid out on 28 December.

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