Malaysia's AirAsia X assures recovery for lessors in new restructuring proposal
By Liz Lee
KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 21 (Reuters) - Malaysian long-haul budget airline AirAsia X Bhd (AAX) AIRX.KL has proposed a separate restructuring programme for its aircraft lessors that aims to tackle their concerns, citing a chance to recover rental losses, a document seen by Reuters shows.
The airline, an affiliate of AirAsia Group AIRA.KL, has been trying for months to reconstitute 64.15 billion ringgit ($15.9 billion) of debt into 200 million ringgit of debt. More than a dozen creditors, mostly lessors, had intervened in court to challenge a proposal that would have meant a haircut for them of 99.7%.
The new proposal for lessors is a key step as the airline looks to win creditors' approval for its restructuring.
The proposal seeks to address lessors' concerns about their forward commercial agreements and the viability of the airline's business after recapitalisation, according to the document, which comprises slides describing the plan.
Under the revised proposal, AAX said lessors are expected to recover at least 60% of what they are owed.
A person familiar with the matter said the airline deemed the earlier description of the debt haircut inaccurate as they "excluded returns from ongoing leases", referring to recovery of rental losses and outstanding debt.
AAX urged lessors to agree to a "pre-packaged lock-up" deal to expedite the restructuring process.
The person, who declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter, said the airline wanted to lock in terms of the deal with lessors before convening a creditors meeting to vote on the restructuring.
"(It) balances the needs of creditors and new investors without compromising the financial viability of the business plan," AAX said in the slides.
AAX did not immediately respond to a request seeking confirmation of the proposal.
Lessors ICBC Leasing, Kayan Aviation, Aviator Capital, Castlelake, Aircastle AYR.N and Minsheng Financial Leasing did not immediately respond to Reuters' requests for comment. Macquarie AirFinance, BOC Aviation Ltd 2588.HK and AerCap AER.N declined to comment.
The revised restructuring plan comes as the Kuala Lumpur High Court on Friday allowed AAX to convene creditor meetings and vote on its restructuring plan, the Edge Financial Daily reported.
The Edge also reported that the court has separated the airline's creditors into three categories: airport operator Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd MAHB.KL, planemaker Airbus SE AIR.PA and other creditors. The aircraft lessors, for whom AAX has proposed the new plan, will fall in the last category.
The split could give lessors a bigger say in the talks, as Airbus otherwise accounts for most of the debt AAX wants to restructure.
The court has also ordered AAX to convene separate meetings with its different groups of creditors within six months.
"Lessors have no choice but to go through (with this plan) if they want to recoup their money, however paltry it is," said Shukor Yusof, head of aviation consultancy Endau Analytics, adding that AAX's business model needs to be fundamentally reassessed.
BOC Aviation had last year asked the court to dismiss AAX's restructuring proposal as it ruled out a debt-to-equity swap and gave too much power to Airbus as a creditor. It also said AAX was "hopelessly insolvent."
The airline announced in December plans to raise 500 million ringgit through a rights issue to existing shareholders and a share subscription for new investors after its debt restructuring.
($1 = 4.0380 ringgit)
(Reporting by Liz Lee; Editing by Gerry Doyle and Jacqueline Wong)
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