Business

AirAsia shares plunge after Airbus bribery allegations

KUALA LUMPUR : Shares of Malaysia's AirAsia Group and unit AirAsia X fell yesterday, after allegations by Britain's Serious Fraud Office that Airbus paid a bribe of US$50 million (S$68 million) to win plane orders from Asia's largest budget airline group.

AirAsia shares fell as much as 11 per cent to RM1.27 (42 Singapore cents) - their lowest since May 2016 - while those of AirAsia X tanked 12 per cent to their all-time low of 11.5 Malaysian sen.

Malaysia's anti-graft agency is investigating the allegations from Britain. AirAsia has said it never made any purchase decisions that were premised on Airbus sponsorship, and that it would fully cooperate with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).

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

The allegations were revealed on Friday as part of a record US$4 billion settlement Airbus agreed with France, Britain and the US. Prosecutors said the company had bribed public officials and used hidden payments as part of a pattern of worldwide corruption.

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.

In a filing with Bursa Malaysia, the airline said the relinquishment would be for two months or such other period that the company may deem fit.

Analysts said the accusation against AirAsia comes at a particularly bad time as airlines grapple with a slowdown in business because of the fast-spreading coronavirus epidemic that has killed more than 300 people in China and disrupted air travel.- REUTERS

BUSINESS & FINANCE