Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Air Asia is betting high, take note share holders

By Biz Times
AIRASIA, the region's biggest budget carrier, is making a risky bet.

As soaring fuel prices have forced other airlines to cut back, shed jobs and ground planes, AirAsia is doing the opposite: increasing flights, adding routes and boosting capital investment.
Last month, it even gave away a million free seats (although passengers still had to pay taxes and fuel surcharges). The seven-year-old company is aiming to fill the vacuum as other airlines reduce capacity, betting that more travellers will opt for budget flights amid a global economic downturn.

Analysts say if it survives the industry slump, AirAsia could come out a winner with increased customer loyalty and a strong route network to catch the growth wave when good times return.
"They are reasonably well-positioned for the long run, but there's always a trade-off. It's a long-term decision, which will cause some short-term pain," said Damien Horth, Asia transport analyst at UBS AG in Hong Kong.

Of course, the strategy could also backfire badly.

Last month, AirAsia reported a 95 per cent plunge in its net profit for April-June quarter to RM9.42 million. But the company chalked that up mostly to a RM77 million foreign exchange loss from a weakened ringgit, not weakness in its underlying business.
Average load factor - the percentage of seats taken up in an airplane - dipped to a still relatively strong 76 per cent, from 80 per cent in 2007.

It has a cash reserve of about RM1 billion, but outstanding debts stand at RM5.4 billion, giving it a net debt position of RM4.4 billion. Debts are set to grow as it receives new planes.

Chris Eng, analyst with OSK Securities in Malaysia, said AirAsia's growth prospects may be curbed, while its joint ventures in Thailand and Indonesia are expected to remain in the red.
"It will be challenging but we believe AirAsia can survive," Eng said, citing its efficient regional network and good cost control.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

EPF Malaysia is the eighth largest fund in the world

By Biz Star

Malaysia’s national pension fund, the Employees Provident Fund (EPF), was ranked the eight largest fund of its kind in the world with US$94.66bil.

This is according to the latest Watson Wyatt Global 300 survey conducted with Pensions & Investments, a US investment newspaper.

The list included the country’s Pension Trust Fund (KWAP), at 22nd spot with US$14.55bil.
Watson Wyatt Asia-Pacific investment consulting head Naomi Denning said in a statement that Asia-Pacific sovereign pension funds grew by about 20% to US$1.8 trillion in 2007.

“Sovereign pension funds in this region have seen tremendous growth in recent years, along with the rapid growth in assets of sovereign wealth funds,” she said.

She added that strong equity returns last year contributed to the boost in asset growth.
Denning said that among sovereign pension funds ex-Japan, funds that enjoyed growth of more than 30% from the previous year included China’s National Social Security Fund (up to 38th position from 69th), India’s Employees Provident Fund(from 88th to 68th), Singapore’s Central Provident Fund (from 32nd to 22nd) and Thailand’s Government Pension Fund (from 285th to 241st).