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Air Asia CEO Moves to Jakarta

Akhyari Hananto
Akhyari Hananto
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Air Asia CEO Moves to Jakarta

AirAsia Bhd Group CEO Tony Fernandes is expected to move to a newly set up regional centre in the Indonesian capital to oversee the airline's expansion plans in Southeast Asia.

"It would be a good assumption that I'm going there," Fernandes, one of Malaysia's most successful businessmen, told reporters at a news conference on Wednesday at the company headquarters in Sepang, near Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

The official announcement of his move is expected on Monday along with other key appointments to the regional office and a new CEO for the airline's Malaysia operations to replace Fernandes.

The regional office will not mean a lesser role for the airline's headquarters, which will remain in Malaysia, Fernandes said. "Nothing changes for the Malaysian operations."

His remarks end weeks of speculation that the airline's headquarters would move from Sepang in the wake of a failed share swap deal between AirAsia and national airline, Malaysian Airline System Bhd.

The deal, aimed at helping both carriers compete against rivals, fell through due to opposition from MAS's labour union.

Fernandes said locating the regional office away from the airline's Malaysian operations will allow senior managers to work in a neutral environment free of the day-to-day pressures in the airline's headquarters.

The Jakarta office will allow the airline to tap the large Indonesian market and raise AirAsia Indonesia's profile before its listing on the Jakarta Stock Exchange by the end of the year.

It will also help the airline lobby the secretariat of the Association of South East Asian Nations, also based in the city, for greater integration in the region, he said.

"I'm just trying to make more money. There is no hidden agenda," Fernandes said.

Fernandes has overseen AirAsia's spectacular growth from two planes to Asia's largest budget carrier over the past decade.

AirAsia last year placed a then record order with Airbus advanced A320 planes worth $18 billion. Fernandes told Reuters last month AirAsia is studying a potential $4 billion deal to buy another 50 Airbus A320s.

(Additional reporting by Rachel Will; Editing by Niluksi Koswanage and Bill Tarrant)


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