Thursday, February 11, 2010

THAI looks to fund new planes

Thai Airways International is seeking Bt10 billion to add 81 new aircraft over 15 years, thereby reducing maintenance costs and improving the fleet in line with travel demand on each route.

"The aircraft acquisition plan will take place in parallel with the capital increase. THAI is asking the Finance Ministry to inject Bt10 billion to maintain its 51.03-per-cent stake," Transport Minister Sophon Saram said yesterday.

The flag carrier's major shareholders are the Vayupak I Fund, 17.2 per cent; Thai NVDR, 4.5 per cent; Omsin Mutual Fund, 2.73 per cent; Mellon Bank, 1.54 per cent; Citibank Nominees Singapore/UBS (London branch)/NRB, 0.96 per cent; Nortrust Nominees/NTGS, 0.89 per cent; and the Social Security Fund, 0.87 per cent.

THAI has registered capital of Bt16.99 billion.

Chairman Ampon Kittiampon last December said the national carrier would issue new shares and bonds to refinance its short-term debts with longer-term obligations. A capital increase plan will be completed in March or April.

Sophon said THAI needed new aircraft, but that required a huge amount of money. Seventy-seven aeroplanes will be replaced.

The aircraft will be procured over three phases - 15 between now and 2014, 38 from 2015-19 and 28 from 2020-24. That will bring the fleet to 101 aircraft, consisting of six models: the Airbus A380, Boeing 747-400, Boeing 777, Boeing 787, Airbus A350 and Airbus A330-300.

The company's board on Monday approved the first acquisition stage: Bt35.5 billion for seven aircraft to be purchased for regional routes and eight to be leased for 10-15 years and put on long-haul routes.

President Piyasvasti Amranand said the detailed acquisition plan will be submitted to the Transport Ministry and the National Economic and Social Development Board before seeking Cabinet approval. In the interval, THAI will need to lease a few aircraft to ease the shortage.

THAI yesterday held a media briefing complete with flight simulations, using various scenarios showing how pilots resolve problems that may arise during a flight.

The event was aimed at showing the public the company's priority in maintaining safety standards.

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