AirAsia Group seeks PHL Congress nod on equity control of AirAsia Zest

Philippines’ AirAsia Inc., the local arm of Malaysia’s low cost carrier AirAsia Group, is seeking congressional approval for a controlling stake in budget airline Yao-led AirAsia Zest.

The operator of AirAsia Philippines wants to raise its 49-percent equity in AirAisa Zest and be the controlling shareholder, AirAsia Zest executive vice president and COO Joy Caneba told reporters in a briefing Friday.

“We have submitted our application to the Committee on [Legislative] Franchises for approval,” she added.

According to the House of Representatives, the application for transfer of controlling interest of Zest Airways Inc. to Air Asia Inc. was filed Sept. 17.

As of Sept. 20, a committee resolution on the transfer was still pending.

“Hopefully we’ll get it by end of the year,” Caneba said.

Zest Airways, operator of AirAsia Zest, secured a congressional approval to operate as a carrier on Jan. 9, 2003. The operator was then named Asian Spirit Inc.

The congressional franchise, Republic Act (RA) 9183, or An Act Granting the Asian Spirit Inc. a Franchise to Establish, Operate and Maintain Domestic and International Air Transport Services, has a 25-year term to 2028.

Sec. 12 of RA 9183 notes that, “The grantee shall not lease, transfer…the controlling interest…whether as a whole or in parts and whether simultaneously or contemporaneously, to any such person, firm, company, corporation or entity without prior approval of Congress.”

Philippines AirAsia owns 49 percent voting rights in ZestAir through a share swap deal last March, while former Ambassador and juice drink magnate Alfredo Yao owns 51 percent.

AirAsia Group owns 40 percent of Philippines AirAsia, with the remaining 60 percent held by Marianne Hontiveros, Michael Romero, Antonio Cojuangco and Yao. – VS, GMA News