King Power buys controlling interest in Thai AirAsia

King Power buys controlling interest in Thai AirAsia

B8bn stake goes to King Power family

Not everyone, but King Power will be in control of ThaiAirAsia from now on, after purchasing all the stock in Asia Aviation owned by Tassapon Bijleveld (inset). (File photo)
Not everyone, but King Power will be in control of ThaiAirAsia from now on, after purchasing all the stock in Asia Aviation owned by Tassapon Bijleveld (inset). (File photo)

After several denials last month over reports that Asia Aviation Plc (AAV) boss Tassapon Bijleveld and his spouse were in talks to sell their majority stakes to duty-free operator King Power, a report Monday confirmed a deal was sealed worth nearly 8 billion baht.

SET-listed AAV, which in turn owns 55% of Thai AirAsia, Thailand's largest low-cost carrier, submitted a statement late Monday evening to the Stock Exchange of Thailand informing it of a resolution by the company's board of directors on their acknowledgement of a share purchase deal worth 7.94 billion baht between the Bijleveld family and Srivaddhanaprabha family.

The statement reported Mr Tassapon, wife Sirithorn and daughter Pattaree sold 39% of the total shares of AAV to King Power chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha and his children.

The deal saw 1.89 billion shares sold at a price of 4.20 baht per share.

AAV shares rose to 6.10 baht in mid-day trade before closing at six baht, a gain of 1.69% Monday in heavy trade worth 8.65 billion baht.

Following the deal, Mr Tassapon will hold 5% in AAV, down from 13%. Mr Vichai will become the new largest shareholder with a 14% stake, with Mr Vichai's family holding a combined 21% stake.

By law, the share purchase required a mandatory tender offer to allow all shareholders to sell their shares at the same price as the deal in compliance with Securities and Exchange Commission law, according to the company's statement.

The change in shareholder structure led to the exit of three directors -- Pattra Boosarawongse, Tanapat Ngamplang and Preechaya Rasametanin -- replaced by Sombat Dechapanichkul and Mr Vichai's two sons Aiyawatt and Apichet.

As of now, Mr Tassapon will remain as chief executive of the company. It has not been disclosed if Mr Tassapon will remain in a management position going forward.

"Mr Tassapon has agreed with the purchasers not to disclose any details, so he has no comment at the moment. They plan to jointly hold a press conference on June 14," said an AAV spokesperson.

Speculation about Mr Tassapon and his family selling their shares spread since late April when King Power was said to be keen to gain ownership of AAV to build on its travel-related empire. Its portfolio includes new English Premier League champions Leicester City.

But in early May, Mr Tassapon denied the deal through a spokesperson, saying "There is no deal whatsoever". A letter of clarification insisting there was no deal was also submitted to the SET.

As chief executive at AAV and Thai AirAsia, Mr Tassapon was judged a success, co-founding the company and leading it to become the largest low-cost carrier in the country. Thai AirAsia (TAA) rapidly spread its wings throughout Asean via an ambitious route schedule.

Last year AAV posted record net profit of 1.08 billion baht, up 490% from 183 million in 2014. TAA posted record net earnings of 1.99 billion baht, up 494%.

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