December 8, 2016 / 9:15 AM / in 8 months

China Merchants, Ping An units among bidders for AirAsia plane leasing unit-sources

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SINGAPORE, Dec 8 (Reuters) - AirAsia Bhd has received nearly a dozen bids for its aircraft leasing unit, mostly from Chinese firms, including the leasing arms of China Merchants Bank and Ping An Insurance Group , sources with knowledge of the process told Reuters.

AirAsia is seeking buyers for a majority stake in the leasing unit, Asia Aviation Capital, which it has valued at about $1 billion. The company plans to cut debt and pay a special dividend from the proceeds, the sources said.

Asia Aviation Capital also plans to add a number of airlines as part of a plan to diversify its customer base beyond AirAsia's affiliates, the sources said.

AirAsia declined to comment on the sale process. AirAsia Group CEO Tony Fernandes told Reuters on the sidelines of an event in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday that the sale process "was getting too close" but declined further comment.

Reuters previously reported that AirAsia aims to conclude the sale of Asia Aviation Capital by the first half of next year.

Ping An Insurance declined to comment while there was no response from China Merchants Bank to a request for comment. The sources declined to be identified as the discussions are confidential. (Reporting by Anshuman Daga in SINGAPORE; Additional reporting by Sumeet Chatterjee, Julie Zhu in HONG KONG and Liz Lee in KUALA LUMPUR; Editing by Denny Thomas and Muralikumar Anantharaman)

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