Thai AirAsia founder back in control

Thai AirAsia founder back in control

Thai AirAsia (TAA) chief Tassapon Bijleveld has regained his sway over Thailand’s largest low-cost carrier through an 8.28-billion-baht share buyback from King Power Group.

Tassapon: Love was the deciding factor

Mr Tassapon agreed to pay the Srivaddhanaprabha family, which owns the duty-free store chain and Leicester City football club, 4.70 baht each for more than 1.76 billion shares in Asia Aviation Plc (AAV).

SET-listed AAV owns a 55% stake in TAA, which started operations 13 years ago. Mr Tassapon is one of the founders of the airline, along with Malaysia-based AirAsia Bhd.

The Srivaddhanaprabha family bought a 39% stake in AAV for 7.94 billion baht from Mr Tassapon and his family in June 2016.

After the deal was confirmed last night, Mr Tassapon reinstated himself as a major AAV shareholder, owning a 41.3% stake in the company, up from 5% earlier.

In a written statement, Mr Tassapon said his share buyback stemmed from his “love” for TAA, which he has managed since its inception.

He said the buyback will allow the continuation of TAA’s growth plan, such as adding seven A320 jets next year, carrying some 22 million passengers in 2018 and expanding its network in Asean, India and China.

The Srivaddhanaprabha family’s stake in AAV drops to 3.5%, and the three adult children of King Power chairman Vichai left the directorship yesterday.

When the Srivaddhanaprabha family bought the AAV shares from Mr Tassapon it insisted there would be no shake-up at TAA and allowed Mr Tassapon to continue serving as chief executive of both TAA and AAV.

The price paid by Mr Tassapon is a 50-satang-per-share premium on what his family received from the Srivaddhanaprabhas last year, though the share value increased over time.

In compliance with regulatory rules, the buyer must issue a mandatory tender offer for the remaining 58.7% of AAV’s listed shares, at 4.70 baht a share, by Jan 8, 2018.