Malaysia Airlines' survival in doubt, says CEO
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Malaysia Airlines' survival in doubt, says CEO

'No choice but to shut it down' if sceptical lessors reject restructuring plan

Malaysia Airlines jets are seen parked at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Oct 6. (Reuters Photo)
Malaysia Airlines jets are seen parked at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Oct 6. (Reuters Photo)

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia Airlines will have to shut down if its lessors decide not to back its latest restructuring plan, the airline’s group chief executive was quoted as saying on Saturday.

A group of leasing companies has rejected the airline’s restructuring plan, bringing the state carrier closer to a showdown over its future, Reuters reported on Friday.

Malaysia Airlines group chief executive officer Izham Ismail said the group would have “no choice but to shut it down” if lessors decide against backing the restructuring plan.

“There are creditors who have agreed already. There are others still resisting, and another group still 50:50,” Izham said in an interview with The Edge weekly newspaper.

“I need to get the 50:50 ones (on board) with those who have agreed. I understand quite a sizeable amount of creditors have agreed.”

Izham said the plan was to restructure the airline’s balance sheet over five years, achieving break-even in 2023 on the assumption that demand in the domestic and Southeast Asian markets returns to 2019 levels by the second and third quarters of 2022.

The plan will also require a fresh cash injection from its major shareholder, the state fund Khazanah Nasional, to help the airline over the next 18 months.

Malaysia Aviation Group (MAG), the airline’s parent company, did not immediately respond to a Reuters email seeking comment.

Lessors claiming to represent 70% of the airplanes and engines leased to the group have called the plan “inappropriate and fatally flawed” and pledged to challenge it, according to people familiar with the matter and a letter from a London law firm seen by Reuters.

However, some leasing companies have endorsed the plan, said one of the sources, declining to be named due to the sensitivity of the matter.

The law firm Clifford Chance, which sent the letter on behalf of the lessors, did not respond to a request for comment.

In an email to Reuters, Malaysia Aviation Group (MAG), the airline’s parent company, said on Saturday it was “pleased” with the level of support it had received from its lessors and was continuing discussions with them.

“(MAG) is confident that there are appropriate legal mechanisms available should that support not be universal,” it said.

“MAG reiterates that the spirit of its restructuring plan is not intended to create unnecessary pain among its creditors but is done in good faith to drive for the long-term survivability of MAG and its dependent value chain of partners.”

The airline group is seeking to implement the restructuring plan through a UK court process, according to sources.

The letter from the law firm further raises the stakes after Reuters reported that the carrier had warned lessors that Khazanah would stop funding the group and force it into a winding-down process if restructuring talks were unsuccessful.

The letter, dated Oct 8, states that if the group “insists on proceeding with the proposed restructuring plan, our clients will use all means at their disposal to challenge it on all possible grounds”.

Izham said the lessors will need to make a decision by Sunday, so that the airline can decide whether to proceed with its restructuring plan or “execute Plan B”.

He said Plan B could involve shifting Malaysia Airlines’ air operator’s certificate (AOC) to a new airline under a different name, or using the certificates of sister airlines Firefly and MASwings.

“If you ask me, is Plan B credible? Of course, it is. We have all the skill sets in place,” he said.

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