By Clara Chooi
PETALING JAYA, May 11 — Efforts by AirAsia, AirAsia X and Malaysia Airlines (MAS) to collaborate on cost-cutting measures despite the abandoned share-swap deal are necessary to face challenges when the ASEAN open skies policy comes into force in 2015, AirAsia X chairman Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz said today.
She pointed out that all airlines in the country would have to ensure their operations are intact when ASEAN skies are opened in line with the policy, which focuses on the liberalisation of air space between member countries, including the lifting of tariffs and other costs.
“When there are open skies... all airlines, ours, whether private or MAS, will have to be able to face up to the competition.
“If these airlines are not strengthened now through whatever ways, there will be a problem.
“That is why AirAsia X and AirAsia are willing to continue with looking at the possible collaborations with MAS,” Rafidah (picture_ told a press conference here.
Following the controversial reversal of the share swap deal on May 2, MAS and AirAsia announced plans to explore joint cost-savings exercises by entering a Supplemental Collaboration Agreement (SA) that covers procurement, aircraft component repairs, training and technical and operational efficiency.
“The share swap has nothing to do with this collaboration. The collaboration is really about cutting costs so that we can pass on lower costs and efficiencies to consumers because in areas where we can collaborate, like joint purchases, joint maintenance... if that can lower the cost and enhance efficiency, why not?” Rafidah explained.
She stressed, however, that the SA would not violate any anti-trust laws globally and would only include areas of collaboration which only “bring benefits to us... us meaning AirAsia X”.
“So the parameters are there,” she said.
The Kuala Kangsar MP also continued to defend the slashing of key routes by AirAsia X, AirAsia’s long-haul budget carrier, pointing out that the decisions were made based on factors “beyond our control”, such as fuel prices.
She said the carrier would only proceed with new routes if the journeys were under eight hours.
The share-swap deal between MAS and AirAsia was cancelled as it had become an impediment to the recovery efforts of the loss-making flag carrier, state asset manager Khazanah Nasional had said on May 2.
The announcement had come after weeks of speculation that the deal would be called off following fierce internal resistance from MAS employee unions and associations.
The unwinding of the share swap saw Khazanah transfer its 10 per cent, or 277,650,600 ordinary shares, in AirAsia back to Tune Air, while Tune Air transferred its 20.5 per cent, or 685,142,000 ordinary shares, in MAS back to Khazanah.
The transaction was cashless and conducted based on the same swap ratio of 2.05 based on the prices at the time the share swap was announced in August 2011, where MAS was valued at RM1.60 per share and AirAsia’s share at RM3.95.
Khazanah also said that the nominee director of Khazanah on AirAsia’s board of directors and Tune Air’s nominee directors on MAS’s board would resign immediately at the time of announcement.
Khazanah and Tune Air agreed to the share swap last August after four previous unsuccessful attempts to forge an alliance between MAS and AirAsia, which soared from a decade ago when Tan Sri Tony Fernandes and partners bought the two-aircraft operation and its debts for just RM1.
Khazanah’s CIMB Bank advised both parties in the deal, which was seen as the final attempt to save MAS despite an earlier rescue programme in 2001 planned by advisory firm BinaFikir Sdn Bhd.
Following the share swap, the management team led by new managing director Ahmad Jauhari Yahya put together a business turnaround plan last December to help propel MAS back to profitability.
The new management’s efforts to restructure the airline and put it in a more competitive position, however, caused friction with unions and employee associations.