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Ownership changes in local AirAsia unit

Romero family hikes stake to 44.5%; Zest-O’s Yao, Hontiveros sell shareholdings

Businessman and Rep. Michael “Mikee” Romero became the single-biggest shareholder in budget carrier AirAsia Philippines, which poised for a financial turnaround and is readying a $200-million public listing later this year.

Through privately held F&S Holdings, the Romero family bought out the shares of AirAsia Philippines chair Marianne Hontiveros and Zest-O owner Alfredo Yao in a deal that increased their ownership in AirAsia Inc. from 15.7 percent to 44.5 percent.

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The rest of the company is held by AirAsia Bhd founders Tony Fernandes and Kamarudin Menardum with 40 percent and Filipino businessman Antonio “Tonyboy” Cojuangco’s TNR Holdings, which owns about 15 percent.

Romero, whose wife Sheila sits as F&S chair, said they were still negotiating the final value of the transaction. He noted that he deemed it a good time to increase his stake.

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“It’s a booming industry,” Romero, who also has interests in the power sector, told reporters on Monday.

The ownership change comes as AirAsia Philippines is undergoing a fresh round of fund-raising from existing shareholders.

Romero said they were in the process of finalizing the airline’s recapitalization, which will involve the issuance of roughly P900 in common shares and P17 billion in preferred shares.

This will be followed by a $200-million share sale in the Philippines through an initial public offering (IPO) planned in the latter part of 2019. He said AirAsia Philippines, which tapped US-based Citi as a financial adviser, was currently worth about $600 million.

The moves will support the airline’s long-term operations in the Philippines, including the acquisition of more planes.

AirAsia Philippines is expected to post just under P2 billion in net income for 2019— reversing a P2.9-billion loss the previous year. This will be mainly driven by strong passenger growth and the company’s continuous fleet expansion.

He said the airline was targeting to grow its fleet of 23 Airbus A320s to 50 aircraft in the next few years. Revenue for 2019 is forecast at P30 billion, higher by half than 2018.

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Romero said the figure could reach P50 billion in three years.

Moving forward, Romero said the airline was seeking more slots in Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport, the country’s busiest air gateway. Hontiveros, who will stay on as company chair, said they were also keen on expanding in secondary hubs such as Bacolod and Bohol to avoid congestion in Manila.

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TAGS: AirAsia, Business, Rep. Michael “Mikee” Romero
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