AirAsia may be signaling retreat to core markets

KUALA LUMPUR: AirAsia Group Bhd will likely retreat to its core markets of Malaysia and Thailand with future growth plans likely to be curtailed and more targeted, said Maybank Investment Bank Research.

The research house house noted recent management changes in AirAsia India cast some doubts over the group's loss-making associates and joint ventures.

AirAsia India recently saw changes to its three top posts - chairman, CEO and CFO - which are now filled by representatives from Tata Group. 

AirAsia group CEO Tony Fernandes and AirAsia deputy group CEO Bo Lingam have also stepped down from the board.

Maybank noted that the Indian airline has faced difficulties from the start.

"It has consistently lost money, prompting capital injections twice. It initially started on a tri-party shareholding structure, but eventually reduced to two as the Tatas bought over the stake of an unhappy shareholder. 

"There was also series of controversies whereby the Indian authorities (Enforcement Directorate, Federal Police) has probed the company for misappropriation of funds, bribe allegations and regulatory breach of foreign management having a commanding majority control," it said.

Maybank noted that apart from AirAsia's Thai joint venture, all its other foreign forays in Indonesia, the Philippines and Japan have not yet turned consistently profitable.

Analyst Reports , Airlines