Friday, September 3, 2010

Low dividend payout by AirAsia if any

24 August 2010

PETALING JAYA: While analysts approve of AirAsia Bhd’s move to pay dividends, they expect the dividend payout will not be significant yet.

The budget carrier, which has been listed since 2004, do not have a dividend policy. However, the group is now considering to pay dividend to its shareholders.

HwangDBS Vickers Research said that although the dividend payment was positive for AirAsia’s shareholders, it did not expect yield to be attractive, considering AirAsia’s huge capital commitment as it was still at its expansion phase.

A local analyst said although AirAsia could afford to start paying dividend, it need not do so as no one expected the airline to pay dividend.

“Its cashflows are okay but the questions is not about the decision to pay, but by what quantum. It (quantum) makes a difference, for example paying one sen – which still constitutes a dividend although it’s not material – and a payout which gives a decent yield such as 10 sen,” he added.

A bank-backed analyst concurred that AirAsia could afford to pay dividend based on its current cashflow but it would not be as significant yet. He added that investors could invest in dividend stocks such as British American Tobacco if dividend was what they were after.

“AirAsia is a growing company. Investors invest in AirAsia for its growth story. They could pay half a sen to one sen in dividend and it may be more symbolic in the next three years,” he added.

The analyst also said AirAsia needed to restructure its Thai and Indonesian units as both were currently leveraging on its balance sheet.

Another analyst said AirAsia was currently on an expansion phase and would required large capital commitment. Hence, its dividend yield would not be as attractive.

“I don’t think it will be that much. In terms of yield, it may not be that attractive,” she said.

Yesterday, a local daily reported group CEO Datuk Seri Tony Fernandes as saying the group was planning to propose a dividend policy by the third quarter of this year.

AirAsia has been mulling over a dividend for some time. In June, Fernandes said AirAsia was in a much better position to consider paying dividends to its shareholders after solving some issues within the group.

Although it has announced its intention to pay its maiden dividend, the carrier has not given any indication on when the first payout will be.

As at June 30, AirAsia has a short and long-term borrowing of RM7.58bil and a deposit, bank and cash balances of RM858.1mil.

“The borrowings are mainly in the form of term loans which are for the purchase of new Airbus A320-200 aircraft,” it said in notes accompanying its latest quarterly results.

For the quarter ended June 30, AirAsia posted a net profit of RM198.9mil for the three months to June 30, a 43% jumped from RM139.2mil in the previous corresponding period, on a turnover of RM940.6mil.

By Leong Hung Yee

The Star

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