AirAsia X Buys 3 Airbus Planes

Malaysia's long-haul budget carrier inked a pact Monday to buy three more Airbus A330 planes as part of its global expansion.

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) -- Malaysia's long-haul budget carrier AirAsia X inked a pact Monday to buy three more Airbus A330 planes as part of its global expansion, and said it hopes to obtain a dual stock exchange listing this year.

Chief Executive Azran Osman-Rani said the planes are worth 1.5 billion ringgit ($492 million) at the sticker price and would bring AirAsia X's total order of the A330 wide-body planes to 28. On top of that, it has also ordered 10 long-range A350 jetliners.

The airline is working toward an initial public offering in Kuala Lumpur and possibly the New York Stock Exchange that is crucial to raising funds for its fleet and route expansion plans, Azran said after the signing ceremony with Airbus.

"It would be fantastic if we can do dual listing. The IPO is important to raise capital and to take the airline to its next stage of growth," he told reporters.

However, he said it will partly depend on the government's route allocation policy which will chart the course for the airline's future growth and determine investors' interest in the company. He didn't give further details.

AirAsia X has long complained that it is unfairly barred from flying to lucrative tourist and trade routes such as Sydney and Jeddah, which are currently monopolized by flag carrier Malaysia Airlines.

AirAsia X, which is partly owned by the region's largest no-frills carrier AirAsia and billionaire Richard Branson's Virgin Group, was launched in November 2007 and now flies to China, Australia, Taiwan, Iran, Korea, Britain, Japan and France.

Azran said the airline carried about two million passengers last year and aims to raise this to 2.7 million this year. It hopes to boost revenue by about 50 percent to around 2 billion ringgit ($656 million) this year, from 1.3 billion ringgit ($426 million) in 2010.

With global oil prices at the $100 per barrel mark, he said AirAsia X is not discounting the possibility of imposing a fuel surcharge if prices keep going up but it will need to ensure it maintains lower cost tickets than rival airlines.

Azran said the three new A330-200s planes that it ordered Monday are more fuel efficient and that could help AirAsia X counter rising oil prices as well as bolster its network in Europe.

Two of the planes will be delivered in mid-2012 and the third in 2014, while the other A330-300 aircraft it previously ordered will be delivered through 2018, he said.

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