AirAsia Group Bhd. is exploring the possibility of listing either its AirAsia Digital or AirAsia SuperApp in the U.S as early as this year, as Southeast Asia’s second-biggest budget carrier plans to expand its digital operations, the airline’s chief executive officer said.
“We’ve received a lot of interest from SPACs,” AirAsia Group Chief Executive Officer Tony Fernandes said in an interview, referring to special purpose acquisition companies. “We have hired accountants, so we are taking it quite seriously to change our accounts” to follow U.S. methods.
The plan comes as the Malaysia-based budget airline doubles down on its digital strategy as the pandemic continues to wreak havoc on air travel. AirAsia announced Wednesday that it’s buying Gojek’s businesses in Thailand for $50 million through the issuance of shares in AirAsia SuperApp.
The airline is also expected to announce a transaction soon at BigPay, where a capital raising will give the unit “a very nice valuation,” Fernandes said, without providing more details. The fintech company has also applied for a digital banking license in Malaysia.
AirAsia also sees big opportunities in its logistics arm Teleport, with plans to add a freighter plane in September, Fernandes said. It will receive a leased 737 plane, the first Boeing Co. aircraft on its fleet, as the airline bets on growing demand from online purchases.
“Logistics is ready and ripe for disruption,” Fernandes said. “We can be a freight forwarder, we can be a DHL. Teleport is a diamond in the rough.”
Teaming up with Gojek will enable AirAsia to provide a vast range of online services from travel and shopping to cross-border deliveries, which will create opportunities for growth. AirAsia has been expanding its digital operations in the last few years and Fernandes said in March the company’s Super App business would have revenue of $250 million this year and digital services will make up about 50% of the company’s sales in five years’ time.
In a separate interview with Bloomberg TV, Fernandes said the company was in the process of working on three other acquisitions. “We will continue to look for acquisitions that make sense,” he said.
Ride-hailing and payments giant Gojek in May agreed to combine with e-commerce pioneer PT Tokopedia to create the largest internet company in Indonesia, before seeking a stock-market debut at home and in the U.S. The startups will form a holding company called GoTo through a deal backed by shareholders including Google and Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.
“AirAsia is all about going to a market and disrupting,” Fernandes said. The airline is about “targeting the markets that no one is looking at, giving them value, and growing that ecosystem,” he said.