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Thu 14 Feb 2008 11:34 AM

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Malaysia's AirAsia X gets Bahrain backing

Bahrain-based Manara Consortium and Japan's Orix take 20% stake in carrier.

Japanese leasing firm Orix Corp and Bahrain-based Manara Consortium have taken a 20% stake in Malaysian budget long-haul carrier AirAsia X for 250 million ringgit ($77.26 million), the airline said on Thursday.

The airline, which counts British billionaire Richard Branson as a shareholder, said Manara, comprising four Saudi investment groups and Orix, would each receive 16.7 million new shares of AirAsia X.

"The share placement represents an important phase of AirAsia X's growth plans with proceeds raised from the transaction allowing the airline to fund aircraft orders already placed with Airbus and further fleet expansion," AirAsia X said in a statement.

The airline, 16% owned by Malaysian budget carrier AirAsia, has ordered 25 Airbus A350 planes.

Following the share placement, Aero Ventures, which is owned by AirAsia Chief Executive Tony Fernandes and his business associates, would hold 48% of AirAsia X and Britain's Virgin Group, controlled by Branson, a 16% stake.

AirAsia X, which currently flies from Kuala Lumpur to Australia's Gold Coast and Hangzhou in China, aims to fly 10 million passengers a year within five years and expects to list its shares on the Malaysian stock exchange by 2010. (Reuters)

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