AirAsia founders to kick off IPO spree in 2013

* Insurance unit, AirAsiaX, Indonesia ops set for listings

* Malaysia continues to lead region in offerings for 2012

By Yantoultra Ngui

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 10 (Reuters) - The founders of Malaysia'sAirAsia Bhd , Tony Fernandes and Kamarudin Meranun, areset to kick off an initial public offering spree in 2013 withthree listings worth more than $500 million.

The plan comes at a time when privatisation schemes andeconomic growth have cemented Malaysia's position as Asia's topdestination for IPOs, accounting for $7.9 billion of the $30.03billion worth of new listings in Asia-Pacific this year,according to Thomson Reuters data. By comparison, IPOs in HongKong have raised $1.81 billion and those in Singapore haveraised $3.44 billion so far this year.

Malaysia's Tune Group, a financial services-to-discounthotel conglomerate owned by Fernandes and Kamarudin, is expectedto launch $65 million IPO of its insurance arm, Tune Insurance,not later than the first quarter of 2013, according to twosources with direct knowledge of the deal.

"They are looking at a market capitalisation of $260million," one of the sources told Reuters on Wednesday,declining to be named as the matter is still private.

CIMB Group Holdings Bhd , ECM Libra Financial GroupBhd and RHB Capital Bhd are involved in theflotation, said the second source.

Fernandes and officials with Tune were not available tocomment.

Meanwhile, AirAsia's long-haul arm, AirAsia X, recentlyhired CIMB, Malayan Banking Bhd and Credit SuisseGroup AG for a $250 million IPO expected early nextyear.

The group is looking to list its Indonesia operations,Indonesia AirAsia, by the first quarter of next year in a dealthat could raise up to $200 million.

The listing plans also come at a time when Fernandes isstepping down as the chief executive officer of theMalaysian-listed airline to focus on regional growth throughIndonesia.

The group's plan to buy up to 100 Airbus jets, potentiallyworth around $9 billion, is designed to fuel the growth of whatis becoming a cluster of related airlines under Fernandes, whoplaced a record order for Airbus jets last year.

With an operating fleet of more than 116 aircraft, AirAsiahas ordered a total of 375 Airbus jets as part of dramaticexpansion plans that include the acquisition of Indonesia'sBatavia Air. AirAsia has said it will accelerate deliveries asrising demand helps it offset high fuel costs.

Not all analysts are convinced by AirAsia's expansion plans.Some local bankers say profits could be crimped by pressure frompotential losses at start-up units in the Philippines and Japanand competition from new players such as Malaysia's MalindoAirways next year. AirAsia's shares have fallen 20.26 percent inthe past three months.

AirAsia made a net operating profit of 130.94 millionMalaysian ringgit ($42.64 million), excluding one-off items, inthe second quarter this year, down slightly from the samequarter last year. Net profit was boosted by a one-off gain of1.16 billion ringgit following a share sale at its Thai unit.

($1 = 3.0705 Malaysian ringgit)

(Additional reporting by Elzio Barreto in HONG KONG; Editing byMatt Driskill)


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