AirAsia Group delays releasing earnings to end-March

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Budget carrier AirAsia Group Bhd has postponed its fourth-quarter earnings release by about a month, just as its closed Japan unit starts bankruptcy proceedings.

The airline confirmed that it had delayed the results announcement to the end of March, from initial plans to release the figures on Thursday evening.

Malaysian market regulators have granted listed companies temporary relief measures in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

AirAsia in a bourse filing on Wednesday said its 33%-owned Japan unit, which ceased operations last October, had begun bankruptcy proceedings.

The airline will recognise a loss of US$74.1 million in its 2020 second half financial results, from intercompany financial assistance and loans deemed irrecoverable.

The company also incurred expenses of US$5.2 million in the fourth quarter last year and first quarter of 2021 related to aircraft de-registration to move three aircraft from Japan to Malaysia, it said.

AirAsia has been locked in tough negotiations with planemaker Airbus with which it has some 400 planes on order across its group.

Reuters reported citing sources that discussions focused on whether AirAsia, one of Airbus' largest customers, could not only delay deliveries but also seek a partial return of deposits.

A person familiar with the matter said the talks on fleet reorganisation were "very tense".

Auditors EY last year raised doubt on the carrier's ability to continue as a going concern due to the COVID-19 impact on the travel industry.

This week, Hong Kong businessman Stanley Choi Chiu Fai took up new AirAsia shares from a private placement, raising his stake to 8.96% held through Positive Boom Ltd, bourse filings showed.

Shares in AirAsia rose 16.6% following the news.

"While the prospects for the air travel industry and airlines have improved significantly following the large-scale rollout of COVID-19 vaccines globally, we are still mindful of the urgent need for airlines, including AirAsia, to recapitalize their balance sheets," AmInvestment Bank said in a research note.

(Reporting by Liz Lee, Additional reporting by Tim Hepher; Editing by Nick Macfie and Elaine Hardcastle)

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