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AirAsia X aims for end-Oct creditor meetings as talks progress

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FILE PHOTO: Tail of AirAsia X plane as seen at the Garuda Maintenance Facility AeroAsia in Tangerang
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By Liz Lee

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) -Malaysia's AirAsia X Bhd (AAX) has made "substantial progress" in months-long talks with creditors as it aims to convene meetings with them to vote on a restructuring scheme by the end of October, its chief executive said.

Benyamin Ismail told Reuters in a telephone interview that negotiations with lessors, planemaker Airbus SE and service providers had progressed, but declined to share details.

The airline, an affiliate of AirAsia Group, also hopes to complete talks with potential investors for its recapitalisation by the end of the year.

"We plan to raise funding in December and get that completed as soon as possible," Benyamin said, declining to reveal details about the potential investors.

Benyamin said talks with creditors were in the final stages and all had indicated they want to see the airline proceed with its restructuring.

There were no objections to a proposal to move engine maker Rolls-Royce Group into the same classification as most other creditors, he added.

The airline said in a stock exchange filing that "final negotiations are still ongoing, particularly with respect to commercial arrangements going forward".

In a court document filed on Monday, AAX said negotiations were still afoot but "various letters of undertaking have been secured" from creditors.

Many lessors have already struck other agreements with Southeast Asian airlines to take back planes early or reduce rates, at least temporarily, to help them survive the plunge in air travel caused by pandemic.

"Drafts of the lock up agreements and term sheets were sent to the lessors on (May 18). The lessors are presently in the process of reviewing them," AAX said.

The airline told the court it has received signed letters of undertaking from three large creditors to support and vote for the scheme, namely Honeywell International, Bridgestone Aircraft Tire Company and Sky High I Leasing Company.

AAX proposed last October to restructure 64.15 billion ringgit ($15.43 billion) of debt, drawing objections from more than a dozen creditors, many of them lessors.

Airbus, the airline's biggest creditor, filed an affidavit in December https://www.reuters.com/article/us-airasia-x-lawsuit-airbus-exclusive-idUSKBN28W0JK saying it stands to lose more than $5 billion worth of orders if the scheme goes through. It declined to comment on the restructuring process.

This week, the court granted AAX an extension https://www.reuters.com/business/aerospace-defense/court-grants-malaysias-airasia-x-extension-hold-creditors-meeting-by-march-2021-09-15 to hold its creditors meetings by March next year, when a restraining order https://www.reuters.com/article/airasia-x-restructuring-idCNL2N2O00AA preventing creditors from filing fresh lawsuits against the airline expires.

Shukor Yusof, head of Malaysia-based aviation consultancy Endau Analytics, said AAX's low-cost, long-haul model was no longer sustainable due to the pandemic.

"Creditors, including lessors and Airbus, understandably don't want to see the airline fall as they stand to lose a lot. The decision to work with AirAsia X to restructure is to salvage whatever they can," he said.

($1=4.1570 ringgit)

(Reporting by Liz LeeEditing by Lincoln Feast and Mark Potter)

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