Indonesia’s Lion Air Group has put on hold plans for an initial public offering, a source tells Cirium.

The company was expected to make the call at the end of February, but the person says some investors have been reluctant to hold face-to-face meetings amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Moreover, it has been difficult to get investors on board given the regional and global downturn in airline stocks.

“Even if the traffic in Indonesia is still very strong, the reality is investors cannot understand that. There is no point trying to launch it now,” a person with knowledge of the IPO says.

Citing unidentified sources close to the matter, reports by Reuters indicate that the company planned to raise as much as $500 million. It launched a pre-marketing drive in January to gauge investor appetite and held roadshows across global finance centres in the early part of February.

Lion Air Group tells Cirium the company “does not comment on market speculation”.

The company first expressed an interest to go public in 2011, proposing that around 30% of its shares could be floated in 2012 to raise around $1 billion.

Lion Air founder Rusdi Kirana said in an April 2014 interview that the IPO would only take place after the group gained a 65% market share in Indonesia. In November 2014, John Duffy, then head of the company’s aircraft leasing arm, indicated that Lion was “seriously considering an IPO in the second half” of 2015.

In a February 2015 interview, Kirana explained that one of the rationales for the IPO was to fund an airport project in Lebak Regency, an hour’s drive from the capital Jakarta. This would help meet its expansion needs, which were constrained by the congestion at Soekarno-Hatta international airport.

That airport project was eventually scrapped amid Jakarta’s concern of possible disruption to air traffic at a nearby airport. Only in February 2017 did Kirana admit that all plans for an IPO had been put on ice as market conditions were not conducive.

Last November, Lion told Cirium that it was postponing the IPO plan in 2019 because it “wanted to determine the right timing [to conduct the IPO]”.

Two international banks, BNP Paribas and Morgan Stanley, are working on the deal.