KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – Planemaker Airbus has said it stands to lose more than $5 billion worth of orders if AirAsia X Bhd’s (AAX) debt restructuring scheme goes through, court documents showed, joining more than a dozen creditors that have challenged the Malaysian low-budget carrier’s plan.
Airbus’s challenge comes as AAX defends its scheme from claims by key lessor BOC Aviation (BOCA) that it favoured Airbus and lacked a debt-to-equity swap offer for creditors.
In a Dec. 16 affidavit filed at Kuala Lumpur High Court, Airbus’s Asia-Pacific Head of Region Anand Stanley said there was a strong possibility Airbus “will suffer substantial losses and prejudice” from termination of purchase agreements.
“AAX has ordered and Airbus has already built, or substantially built, seven A330neo aircraft which are currently in the inventory,” he said, adding that there are another 71 on order that may impact Airbus’s profitability if cancelled.
Despite Airbus’s objections, AAX’s affidavit filed on Monday showed it supported a creditors’ meeting needed to approve the scheme. Other creditors, such as Rolls-Royce, have agreed to consider the scheme, while a few lessors said they support the airline’s restructuring efforts, it said.
Castlelake’s Vice President Marketing Sankalp Garg told AAX in an email that the lessor clearly wanted to see AAX succeed.
AAX has been seeking court approval to convene the meeting for creditors to vote on the scheme. On Monday it asked the court for a stay on all proceedings against it, adding it was necessary to protect its assets pending approval of the scheme.
AAX revealed in a Dec. 17 affidavit seen by Reuters it owes Airbus 48.71 billion ringgit ($12 billion) including predelivery payments for committed purchase of 118 aircraft.
AAX has unfilled orders for 78 A330neo jets as well as 10 A350-900 and 30 A321neo, based on Airbus data.
It accounts for a quarter of all orders for the A330neo and its financial problems have cast a shadow over the future of the upgraded model. Airbus has halted new investment in the plane but continues to offer it as a cheaper alternative to its A350.
BOCA has said AAX’s debt calculations should not include future debts, which are primarily owed to Airbus. Airbus alone holds about 75% of the total debt value needed to approve the restructuring, giving lessors relatively little say.
AAX Senior Legal Counsel Shereen Ee denied the calculations were unfair as they also consider termination compensation for BOCA until the end of its lease period.
As for BOCA’s proposed debt-to-equity conversion, Ee said it “would run counter to the objective of restructuring AAX to ensure it can raise fresh funds to continue as a going concern.”
She said any party may have an equity stake in AAX if they inject fresh funds in return for it.
BOCA became one of Norwegian Air’s top shareholders in May after lessors agreed to convert debt to equity.
The airline failed to get more state support last month and sought bankruptcy protection. It secured shareholders’ vote last week for its rescue plan.
BOCA is AAX’s largest lessor, AAX’s lawsuit showed.
AAX will continue engaging with all creditors, a company spokeswoman said.
“We are working with all stakeholders to expedite the completion of this recapitalisation so that we can start flying again,” she said.
The airline, which has been recording losses since June 2019, said the alternative was a liquidation with nothing for creditors and shareholders.
Airbus and BOCA declined to comment while legal proceedings and discussions are ongoing.
AAX, the long-haul unit of budget airline AirAsia Group, has total debts and liabilities of about 64.15 billion ringgit ($15.8 billion), the lawsuit stated. It had earlier proposed to reconstitute its debts into a principal amount of 200 million ringgit.
Legal Counsel Ee said the scheme would “at least offer creditors a prospective chance for survival”.
($1 = 4.0580 ringgit)
(Reporting by Liz Lee; Editing by Stephen Coates/Louise Heavens/Jane Merriman)