Long-haul budget carrier AirAsia X aims to be profitable by year-end, open to investment



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KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Long-haul budget carrier AirAsia X said Tuesday it expects to return to operational profit by the end of the year and is open to foreign investment.

AirAsia X has suffered losses in the past two years and its share price has plunged to near record lows at around 0.20 ringgit (5 cents), far below its IPO price of 1.25 ringgit (33 cents).

Acting Chief Executive Benyamin Ismail blamed losses on "irrational competition" by national carrier Malaysia Airlines, which had previously offered cheap fares to fill up seats. But the flag carrier has now cut capacity as part of an overhaul, which will benefit AirAsia X, he said.

Malaysia-based AirAsia X has cut loss-making routes to Adelaide, Australia and Nagoya and Narita in Japan and plans new destinations such as Sapporo in October and Honolulu in November, he said.

"The only reason we are suffering in the last 1.5 to 2 years is because of irrational competition. We cannot compare with airlines that offer fares below cost," Benyamin said. "In the second half, the numbers will be better. We are on track on our revamped business plan."

He said it was important for the carrier to conserve cash and focus on routes that could make money,

Asked about reports that two foreign airlines were keen to take a stake in the company, he said AirAsia X is "open to investment."

"If the price is right, we will look at it. We have not found any new partner to team up with but we are not ruling it out," he said.

AirAsia X, launched in late 2007, flies to 14 countries in Asia, Australia and the Middle East.

Some analysts are pessimistic about the airline's prospects. CIMB Research recently predicted losses for AirAsia X this year and next, citing a more challenging outlook and continuing drain on its cash.

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