By Arjay L. Balinbin

KUALA LUMPUR — AirAsia Group Berhad Chief Executive Officer Anthony Francis “Tony” Fernandes won’t commit to a definite timeline for the planned initial public offering (IPO) of its Philippine unit.

“No. We are making money,” Mr. Fernandes told reporters here on Friday when asked about a target year for Philippines AirAsia, Inc.’s IPO. “No. I don’t think we can commit to a timeline. Let’s see how results go.”

Philippines AirAsia Chairman Joseph Omar A. Castillo said last month that the budget carrier is looking to launch its IPO by the third quarter of 2020 to first quarter of 2021.

He said the company was still “undergoing a restructuring” in preparation for the IPO.

Philippines AirAsia has postponed its planned public offering several times due to market volatility.

“We are [now] doing so well in the Philippines. The Philippines has been a problem child for us for a long time… I always see the Philippines as a diamond in the rough because it sits on the border of China, Korea, and Taiwan, and it is a great connector to the East Coast of America,” Mr. Fernandes also said.

“So, we are doing great… So what we will do? We will wait until we get a fair valuation. This is our first year of productivity, so wait a minute,” he added.

Michael L. Romero, owner of Philippines AirAsia majority stakeholder F&S Holdings, Inc., earlier said they were still looking at a $1-billion valuation for the company.

Mr. Romero has said also that for this year, Philippines AirAsia targets to post a net income of P2 billion and P29 billion revenue. The budget carrier posted a P2.11 billion loss last year.

The local unit of AirAsia saw a 777% surge in profit to P593.07 million in the second quarter, as revenues rose 38% to P7.51 billion.

Reporters arrived in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday to witness the welcome ceremony for Malaysia’s AirAsia Group Berhad’s first A321neo aircraft from Hamburg, Germany. The new aircraft is the first of 353 A321neos ordered by AirAsia Group from Airbus SE.

A321neos will replace AirAsia’s existing fleet of A320 and A320neo aircraft throughout its network including Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, India and Japan.

“We are proud to welcome our first A321neo today as the backbone of our future operations. This new aircraft will be deployed on popular routes delivering growth opportunities to new markets and add extra capacity in existing markets, particularly where there are expansion constraints due to infrastructure or slot availability limitations,” Mr. Fernandes said in his speech at a ceremony here on Friday.

“Last year, AirAsia flew over 90 million guests and now, with significantly improved operational efficiencies and 50 more seats per aircraft, AirAsia can look forward to flying even more people for less. As our cost is reduced we can pass on any savings to our guests in the form of even lower airfares,” he added.