AirAsia to merge group's accounts

AirAsia shares lost more than half their value this year after concerns about accounting practices and weakness at operations across South-east Asia. The stock fell as much as 7 per cent yesterday, hitting a nearly two-month low.
AirAsia shares lost more than half their value this year after concerns about accounting practices and weakness at operations across South-east Asia. The stock fell as much as 7 per cent yesterday, hitting a nearly two-month low.PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR • AirAsia's plans to consolidate its group's accounts will help dispel some criticism of its financials, though struggling affiliates are likely to drag down earnings at Asia's biggest budget carrier.

AirAsia shares have lost more than half their value this year, following concerns about accounting practices and weakness at operations across South-east Asia.

Executives considered taking the firm private, Reuters reported, and this month AirAsia said it was evaluating "all strategic options".

Late Thursday, the Malaysian airline said it was hopeful of presenting its accounts and those of its affiliates as one. The announcement came almost six months after Hong Kong-based GMT Research said transactions with affiliates inflated earnings.

"On consolidation of financial statements, we suspect that there is a lot of scepticism towards AirAsia's financial statements, given the opaque transactions that have been highlighted in recent reports," GMT Research founder Gillem Tulloch told Reuters in an e-mail yesterday.

"The only way to restore confidence is to give the required disclosure," Mr Tulloch said.

The airline did not give a time frame for the consolidation. It previously said local regulations prevented accounting consolidation with affiliates of which it was a minority owner.

AirAsia's Malaysian operations account for most of the group's profits, but the airline's financial performance over the past few years has suffered due to competition from carriers owned by Singapore Airlines, Australia's Qantas Airways and Indonesia's Lion Air.

On Thursday, AirAsia said it swung into a net loss in the third quarter after booking a large writedown on its money-losing Indonesian operations and foreign exchange losses.

Its shares fell as much as 7 per cent yesterday, hitting a nearly two-month low, though still trading comfortably above multi-year lows struck in August.

The airline also said earnings missed forecasts at its Indonesian and Philippine associates, which have high debts to AirAsia.

Maybank analyst Mohshin Aziz said consolidating its accounts would present a better picture of AirAsia's financials, considering that it has so many associates across countries.

The shares fell yesterday because of the net loss figure, but the underlying picture was better, Mr Aziz added. He said: "Passenger yields are growing and cash from operations is growing, and those are the two key things."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 28, 2015, with the headline 'AirAsia to merge group's accounts'. Print Edition | Subscribe