AirAsia Group Bhd. shares fell to the lowest level in six months after India said it’s investigating Chief Executive Officer Tony Fernandes and other officials for allegedly paying bribes to influence local policy.
India’s Central Bureau of Investigation said Tuesday that the budget airline’s executives bribed Indian officials through middlemen to sway government decisions on aviation, including obtaining a flying permit for the local unit and approvals to operate internationally. Emails and calls to Fernandes elicited no response, while a spokeswoman said he isn’t available for an interview.
The probe poses uncertainties to AirAsia’s expansion plans. Fernandes has identified India as one of the main pillars of his pan-Asian dream as he seeks to capture a share of a market dominated by Gulf-based carriers and Air India. With the India unit, he’s planning more domestic flights, and international operations are on the cards early next year.
AirAsia India, in which conglomerate Tata Sons Ltd. and local directors control a 51 percent stake, has floated a tender to lease as many as 40 Airbus SE A320 jets. The airline has vowed to eliminate its annual losses this year.
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