AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes steps aside amid Airbus bribery allegations

Andrew Cummings
February 4, 2020

AirAsia Group executive chairman Kamarudin Meranun and chief executive officer Tony Fernandes will relinquish their executive positions within the group, effective immediately, following an Airbus bribery probe, Bernama reported. quoted The Straits Times on February 4 reporting that two AirAsia Group leaders will be out for at least two months.

A committee comprising the non-executive members of AirAsia's board will review the allegations and take any necessary action, Asia's biggest budget airline said on Monday Feb 3).

Fernandes and Kamarudin, however, will be retained as advisors of the company during the two-month period, "in view of the current hard economic circumstances facing the airline industry".

"We categorically deny all allegations of wrongdoing or misconduct on our part as executives and directors of AirAsia", they said.

"We would not harm the very companies that we spent our entire lives building up to their present global status", they said.

AirAsia shares fell as much as 11% to 1.27 ringgit - their lowest since May 2016 - while those of AirAsia X tanked 12% to their all-time low of 11.5 Malaysian sen.

AirAsia has said it will fully cooperate with Malaysia's Anti-Corruption Commission, which is working alongside Britain's Serious Fraud Office (SFO) probing the claims.

Malaysia's Securities Commission said on Sunday it would also examine whether AirAsia broke securities laws.

"This agreement and the contents were arrived at without any reference to us; neither were any explanations sought from us", Fernandes and Kamarudin said in their statement.

Kamarudin and Fernandes also said they welcome any investigation by the authorities, saying that is the only way they would receive the fairness and access to justice denied them by the SFO process to date.

A court document on the SFO's website said EADS France SAS - which was later renamed as Airbus Group SAS - paid Dollars 50 million as sponsorship for a sports team owned by two unnamed AirAsia executives.

AirAsia has been pulled into investigations which have seen European planemaker Airbus fined a record €3.6bn (£3bn).

Since Mr Fernandes bought AirAsia, he has built a company with a market valuation of more than $1bn.

Those of long-haul subsidiary AirAsia X Bhd lost 8%.Malaysia's MIDF Research downgraded its recommendation on AirAsia stock to "neutral" from "buy" on Tuesday whereas AmInvestment Bank maintained its "sell" rating.

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