January 10, 2017 / 11:12 AM / a year ago

VietJet revives plans for overseas listing

HO CHI MINH CITY (Reuters) - Vietnamese budget carrier VietJet has revived plans for an overseas listing after a domestic IPO last month that gave it a value of $1.2 billion.

A security officer stands next to a VietJet aircraft at Noi Bai International airport in Hanoi, Vietnam, January 10, 2017. REUTERS/Kham

Vietnam’s only privately owned airline may consider listing on either the Singapore, Hong Kong or Tokyo bourses, CEO Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao, the nation’s first female billionaire, told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday.

“VietJet hopes to become Vietnam’s first company to successfully go to the international capital market,” Thao, who founded the airline in 2007, said.

The airline had earlier planned an overseas listing by early last year, but reports said the plan was put on ice. Thao did not cite a timeline for the listing.

Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC and a Morgan Stanley investment fund are among 26 foreign investors who have bought a combined 24 percent stake in VietJet in recent placements, Thao said. The carrier’s shares will start trading in the domestic market in February.

VietJet Air CEO Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao speaks behind a model of a VietJet aircraft during an interview in her office in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, January 10, 2017. REUTERS/Kham

Investors have sought exposure to an airline that is expected to own the biggest share of the domestic market this year, amid strong air travel growth in the Southeast Asian nation.

The firm, which is expanding its international routes, has the financial backing it needs to finance the country’s biggest ever aircraft order from both Airbus (AIR.PA) and Boeing (BA.N), Thao said.

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It announced in May last year that it had ordered 100 Boeing 737 MAX 200 jets - worth $11.3 billion at list prices - and months later placed a $2.4 billion order with Airbus for 20 A321s.

VietJet currently operates about 60 routes both locally and internationally, and expects to have a fleet of 200 aircraft by 2023, Thao said.

The CAPA Centre for Aviation has said that VietJet commands 40 percent of Vietnam’s domestic market and it will likely surpass Vietnam Airlines HVN.HNO this year as the country’s biggest domestic carrier.

VietJet’s net profit is expected to climb 30 percent in 2017, after its bottomline almost doubled over the past 12 months, Thao said. It had debt of 5 trillion dong ($221.53 million) as of end-September.

Reporting by My Pham; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman

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