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Bangkok Airways to go public

After operating as a privately owned airline for 43 years, Bangkok Airways aims to become a publicly listed company by the end of 2013.

The airline recently began an internal study focused on divesting a 30% stake to mobilise funds and help it grow in the future, revealed founder and major stakeholder Prasert Prasartthong-osoth yesterday.

“It’s time to open our doors to others to propel the airline into the future,” he said.

Listing on the main board of the Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET) will be a bold strategic move for the privately owned airline known for its conservative management. It is adapting with younger executives led by Puttipong, Dr Prasert’s son, now at the helm.

Dr Prasert said it was too early to discuss the strategic plan associated with an IPO launch, though he stressed Bangkok Airways would continue to operate as a full-service carrier under the slogan “Asia’s Boutique Airline”.

The airline will continue to focus on its position in the region, he said, eschewing both the opportunity to add international routes and branch into the low-cost carrier (LCC) segment.”We believe there are a lot of passengers who don’t mind paying more to get the kind of premium services we are offering,” he said. “We’re in a different market category than LCCs.”

The establishment of the Asean Economic Community in 2015 and the Asean open sky policy should also spur air traffic in the region and allow the airline to cash in on rising demand, particularly those in the premium segment, he noted.

Bangkok Airways executives said the expansion opportunities arising from public fundraising were almost limitless, citing the success of the Samui Airport Property Fund three years ago.

Samui Airport in Surat Thani was built by Bangkok Airways and was wholly owned by the airline before ownership was handed over to the fund.

Flights through Koh Samui, where Bangkok Airways played a pivotal role developing its tourism industry as one of Asia’s top resort destinations, have been a cash cow for the airline.

The airline has been conservatively building its balance sheet over the past few years to make it eligible for listing.

Bangkok Airways expects further improvement in its performance this year, anticipating a 15% jump in year-on-year operating profit, a 29% rise in revenue and 17% growth in passenger volume.

It projects minimum passenger revenue of 10.6 billion baht for 2011, topping last year’s 8.3 billion, with passenger numbers reaching 3.1 million.

The airline also forecasts an operating profit of 892 million baht for 2011, compared with 778 million last year.

The airline appears on course to achieve its targets, recording revenue of 5.2 billion baht in the first half, up from 4.1 billion the previous year, with passenger volume touching 1.5 million, thanks largely to improved traveller confidence stemming from the absence of political unrest.

First-half operating profit was 440 million baht, versus 397 million in the previous period.

Dr Prasert said the airline expected double-digit growth in operating performance over the next few years.

Source: Bangkok Post

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