AirAsia shares under pressure amid probe

Mavcom considers Fernandes’ claims in a video dated May 13 as ‘serious allegations’

By IZZAT RATNA / Pic By ISMAIL CHE RUS

AirAsia Bhd’s share price fell 20 sen yesterday as the Malaysian Aviation Commission (Mavcom) began a probe on claims made by group CEO Tan Sri Dr Tony Fernandes (picture) that he was ordered to cancel 120 extra flights during the 14th General Election.

Maybank Investment Bank Bhd aviation analyst Mohsin Aziz said there has been a lot of portfolio repositioning by fund managers and a lot of stocks deemed to be benefitting from the previous government have been deviated.

“In this case, AirAsia seems to be inclined towards the previous administration,” he said.

AirAsia’s share price closed at RM3.50, representing a 5.14% fall, giving the low-cost carrier a market capitalisation of RM11.73 billion.

In a statement on Sunday, a Mavcom spokesperson noted the commission has considered Fernandes’ claims in a video dated May 13, 2018, as “serious allegations”.

“We have immediately commenced an investigation into these claims and we will keep members of the public informed,” the spokesperson said.

In a video shared on his Facebook page, Fernandes said Mavcom had summoned him to cancel 120 extra discounted flights, which would have carried 26,000 people during the election.

He said he was under pressure to support the former ruling party, Barisan Nasional (BN), in order to preserve AirAsia’s longevity as the aviation sector is a heavily regulated sector that requires government approval.

Fernandes claimed the pressure came after the low-cost carrier had offered 120 extra flights which would have carried 26,000 people on top of its normal flights. The ticket prices were reduced to make it affordable; RM99 for flights in Peninsular Malaysia and RM129 for flights across the sea to East Malaysia.

“The rakyat were overjoyed and unfortunately that put me under more pressure when it was realised by the government that we were ferrying so many voters,” he said.

Fernandes said he had to show support for BN as he refused to sack AirAsia X Bhd chairman Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz who was campaigning for Pakatan Harapan.

“I apologise once again for the pain and hurt I caused,” Fernandes said.