By Liz Lee, Reuters News
Lessor BOC Aviation Limited (BOCA) has asked a Malaysian court to dismiss AirAsia X Bhd’s debt restructuring scheme as it rules out a debt-to-equity swap and gives too much power to Airbus as a creditor, an affidavit filed by a top BOCA executive shows.
AirAsia X (AAX), the long-haul unit of budget airline AirAsia Group, has proposed to reconstitute $15.3 billion of debt into a principal amount of 200 million ringgit ($48 million) and have the rest waived.
The airline, which has posted losses since June 2019, said the alternative was to face liquidation with no returns to creditors. It is now seeking court approval to convene a meeting with creditors to vote on the scheme.
In an affidavit filed at the Kuala Lumpur High Court on Nov. 26 seen by Reuters, BOCA Chief Operating Officer David Walton said the restructuring was unfair as it writes off 99.7% of claims without offering creditors an equity stake.
BOCA became one of Norwegian Air’s top shareholders in May after agreeing with other lessors to convert debt to equity. The airline sought bankruptcy protection last month after failing to get more state support.
Walton also questioned AAX’s unfair debt calculations, given most of the amount was tied to aircraft orders from Airbus SE that have not been delivered.
AAX had previously disclosed that BOCA had challenged the restructuring, but had not given the reasons for it.
“Aircraft purchase commitments cannot be considered as an accurate assessment of the accrued and crystallised debts,” Walton said in the affidavit supporting the lawsuit by BOCA.
In other recent restructurings such as Thai Airways International PCL and Virgin Australia, the main creditors have been current financiers, lessors and suppliers, not plane manufacturers based on orders.
AAX’s restructuring plan needs approval from creditors holding at least 75% of the total value of the debt.
A source with direct knowledge of the matter has told Reuters that Airbus has nearly 75% on its own, giving lessors relatively little say.
Walton said BOCA should be categorised as a financing creditor separately from an equipment manufacturer like Airbus as they have different interests.
AAX did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
BOCA declined to comment, saying it is engaged in legal action, while Airbus declined to comment citing confidentiality.
Last month, a court in Britain ordered AAX to pay BOCA $23.4 million for outstanding aircraft lease liabilities. BOCA registered the foreign judgment in Malaysia last week.
AAX announced on Monday plans to raise $123 million through a rights issue from existing shareholders and share subscription from new investors.
The fundraising however is contingent on approval for the restructuring scheme and at least a dozen creditors have filed objections to it. AAX said it will continue to engage with creditors to allay their concerns.