AirAsia shares rise after Dr M's comments on Airbus deal

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KUALA LUMPUR (Feb 6): AirAsia Group Bhd's share price rose as much as nine sen or 7.76% to RM1.25 in afternoon trades today in an apparent response to Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad's comment on the AirAsia-Airbus SE deal. He said it is not bribery if an offset in a business transaction is for a specific purpose.

At 3:57pm, AirAsia shares pared gains to trade at RM1.24, for a market capitalisation of RM4.08 billion. The counter saw some 105 million shares traded to become Bursa Malaysia's most-active stock.

Dr Mahathir, who was responding to reporters' questions today on AirAsia executives being implicated in corruption involving aircraft manufacturer Airbus, said it is a bribe if money goes into one's pocket.

The premier told reporters after a special address to the Education Ministry staff in Putrajaya that the Malaysian government had always asked for offsets when it bought equipment at high prices.

The deferred prosecution agreement entered into by Airbus and the UK Serious Fraud Office (SFO) appears to implicate executives of AirAsia.

AirAsia and AirAsia X Bhd directors Tan Sri Tony Fernandes and Datuk Kamarudin Meranun said in a recent statement they categorically deny all allegations of wrongdoing or misconduct on their part as executives and directors of AirAsia with regard to the deferred prosecution agreement.

"Caterham F1, the company alleged to have been sponsored improperly by Airbus, was at the relevant time a Formula 1 Racing team that had gone round the globe promoting amongst others AirAsia, AirAsia X, GE and Airbus. Throughout the period we were shareholders in Caterham, the company made no profits and was eventually disposed [of] for 1 pound sterling in 2014. From start to finish this was a branding exercise and not a venture to make profits," they said.

See also: Dr Mahathir on AirAsia-Airbus deal: Offset not a bribe if it is for specific purpose