AirAsia’s Parent, Capital A Bhd, Seeks $1B in Funds

Malaysia’s Capital A Bhd, the parent company of budget airline AirAsia, is embarking on a strategic financial journey under the leadership of CEO Tony Fernandes. Their goal? To obtain more than $1 billion in funding, blending debt and equity, in a move that could fundamentally transform the company’s prospects. This ambitious initiative underscores the company’s commitment to charting a new course for its future while leveraging unique financial avenues.

What makes this plan unique is the intention to list certain businesses through a blank-cheque company based in New York. This intriguing financial move has piqued the interest of many in the financial world.

Fernandes has struck a deal with Aetherium Acquisition, a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) listed on NASDAQ. This partnership is expected to result in multiple businesses making their debut on the public market. Notably, one of these businesses aims to extend the AirAsia brand to support airline franchises in developing countries.

Capital A’s financial situation has not been without challenges. The company is classified as “distressed” by the Malaysian stock exchange, a categorisation known as Practice Note 17. This has brought about increased regulatory scrutiny. Nevertheless, Capital A is actively working towards exiting this status, underlining its commitment to financial recovery.

The deal with Aetherium Acquisition is slated for finalisation in early 2024. This SPAC initially raised $115 million in January 2022, attracting investors from Southeast Asia and Hong Kong. Capital A may also seek additional funds through a private investment in public equity, a common feature in the SPAC world.

Capital A is poised for a transformation. The new entity that emerges from this financial strategy will be known as “Capital A International.” It’s set to house a fresh AirAsia franchise business, with a mission to support the launch of airlines in countries like Bangladesh and the Maldives. Additionally, it will incorporate the company’s consulting division and its aircraft leasing business.

Preceding the SPAC deal, Capital A is actively pursuing an ambitious plan to secure more than $1 billion in new equity and debt in the coming months. This includes a recent $150 million loan from Bangkok Bank, a significant feat given the company’s PN17 status.

Capital A is looking ahead with a clear financing strategy. Plans are in motion for a $400 million loan structured as a revenue bond, with repayments primarily coming from airline ticket sales. Furthermore, discussions are underway for a $300 million equity raise from investors in the first quarter of 2024. The group has also sealed the deal on fundraising agreements, securing $175 million for Teleport, Move, and Asia Digital Engineering.

Formerly known as AirAsia Group, the company underwent a rebranding process in January of the previous year, emerging as Capital A. This transformation mirrors the company’s evolving strategic direction and its expanding portfolio. This portfolio now includes a “super app” known as Move (formerly the airasia super app), an aviation consultancy arm, the logistics business Teleport, and an airline engineering and maintenance services provider called Asia Digital Engineering. Capital A’s financial manoeuvres could pave the way for a new chapter in its journey.

Blueprint of the ‘Move’ app (Source: soyacincau.com)

Earlier this year, Capital A has introduced ‘Ask Bo,’ an AI-powered concierge designed to revolutionise customer interactions. This innovative solution, launched in February 2023, underscores the company’s commitment to proactive, attentive, and hassle-free customer service. ‘Ask Bo’ harnesses the power of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to provide customised information, facilitate self-service options, and keep guests informed throughout their journey. The initiative is part of Project Bo, aimed at establishing Capital A as the most responsive, communicative, and answerable brand in the region. ‘Ask Bo’ can be accessed via the airasia Super App and the official website, offering a more seamless customer experience.

Tony Fernandes, CEO of Capital A, during a press conference for the launch of Ask Bo at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Malaysia, on February 8, 2023. (Source: sindonews.com)

Capital A’s financial strategy and innovative plans are well-aligned with AirAsia’s vision of becoming a leading low-cost airline in Asia, catering to underserved markets. This approach has the potential to revitalise Capital A while opening new avenues for AirAsia’s expansion, particularly in developing regions. The introduction of ‘Ask Bo,’ an AI-powered customer service solution, further enhances AirAsia’s customer-centric approach. Overall, these strategies position both companies for growth and success in the aviation industry.

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