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AirAsia X rises in trading debut after $310M IPO

AirAsia X Chief Executive Officer Azran Osman-Rani attends a news conference after the launching of its initial public offering (IPO) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Wednesday, July 10, 2013. (AP Photo)

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) -- Shares of long-haul budget carrier AirAsia X rose slightly in the company's trading debut Wednesday after raising $310 million in Malaysia's biggest initial public offering this year.

AirAsia X shares topped the most active list, edging up to 1.27 ringgit (40 cents) by midday or a 1.6 percent premium from its IPO price of 1.25 ringgit (39 cents).

The IPO, which comes amid a volatile period for global markets, comprised a public issue of 592.6 million new shares and the sale of 197.5 million existing shares.

Aero Ventures, the biggest shareholder in AirAsia X, was the main seller of existing shares. It is controlled by AirAsia founder Tony Fernandes and several other Malaysians. After the IPO, Aero's stake in AirAsia X dropped to 34.4 percent from 52.2 percent.

Billionaire Richard Branson's Virgin Group, which owns Virgin Atlantic Airways, last year sold its 10 percent stake in AirAsia X, citing internal restructuring to focus on its own brand.

AirAsia X has said it would use proceeds of 741 million ringgit ($233 million) raised from the public issue to repay bank debts and finance its expansion as it gears up for competition from Singapore Airline's Scoot and Qantas Airways' Jetstar.

Air travel in Asia is expected to grow 6.7 percent annually in the next 20 years, from 780 million passengers in 2010 to some 2.2 billion by 2030. Budget aviation now has a quarter of the air travel market in Asia and is growing.

AirAsia X, which was launched in late 2007, flies to 14 destinations across Asia, Australia and the Middle East.

Analysts have said the IPO will boost AirAsia X as it seeks to establish new hubs to strengthen its network. AirAsia X axed flights to Europe last year and is focusing on more profitable medium-haul routes in Asia.

The airline carried 2.5 million passengers in 2011 and aims to increase its passengers to 7 million by 2014. It made a profit of 33.85 million ringgit ($10.6 million) last year on revenue of 1.28 billion ringgit ($402 million).