AirAsia denies Fernandes summoned by Indian CBI


AIRASIA Group Bhd has denied claims its founder and substantial shareholder Tan Sri Dr Tony Fernandes (picture) has been summoned to appear before India’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) today for questioning.

In a filing to Bursa Malaysia yesterday, the low-cost carrier stated categorically that neither AirAsia Group, nor Fernandes in his personal capacity, have received any such notice as of yesterday.

“We wish to emphasise that AirAsia Group and Fernandes will cooperate fully with the respective authorities in India in the latter’s investigation,” it noted, referring to the Foreign Investment Promotion Board approval granted to the company for investing in AirAsia India Pte Ltd.

The budget airline tycoon is currently embroiled in investigations over allegations his company modified rules to get an international flying licence for its Indian unit.

Federal investigators in India have filed criminal charges against AirAsia India, a joint venture (JV) between AirAsia and Indian conglomerate Tata Sons Ltd, for alleged “conspiracy” involving bribes to policymakers to change regulations.

Indian media reports recently revealed AirAsia India had engaged Singapore-registered HNR Trading Pte Ltd as a proxy to route bribes totalling 12.28 crore rupees (RM7.29 million) to officials.

Maybank Investment Bank Bhd (Maybank IB) aviation analyst Mohshin Aziz said it is too early to determine the impact on the group and the fate of the JV as the probe threatens to delay its initial public offering (IPO) plans and international expansion.

“Until the CBI says there is no case, then things will not settle, there is no relief. AirAsia said they have not received a call up, but the way the law works is, it has to happen at some point. Until that happens, it is too early to say anything,” Mohshin told The Malaysian Reserve.

Shares of AirAsia climbed 13 sen to close at RM3.23 yesterday, but has seen selling pressure since the new government took control of Putrajaya last month.

Mohshin said there is a possibility the carrier’s share prices will decline further.

“It’s possible AirAsia’s share price will go lower given foreign shareholding is quite high, which is at 44% — they are the ones who are selling,” he said.

Mohshin believes the group’s shares are undervalued and below Maybank IB’s target price of RM3.70.

Nomura Securities Malaysia Sdn Bhd’s analyst, Ahmad Maghfur Usman, has a target price of RM5.28 for the stock based on its plans for an IPO in mid-2019, which is expected to improve its balance sheet position.

AirAsia has invested RM152 million in equity in the 49%-owned Indian venture and the amount due from the latter stands at RM141 million.

“Ultimately, in the event of an outright closure, as much as RM300 million could be impaired on Air- Asia’s side,” Ahmad said in his report.