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AirAsia to launch Philippine joint venture

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 8 – Southeast Asia\’s biggest budget carrier AirAsia plans to launch a joint venture airline operation in the Philippines in 2011, an official involved in the negotiations said Wednesday.

"The partnership deal is with a consortium of Philippine business leaders including Antonio Cojuangco (former chairman of Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co.)," the official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Cojuangco is president Benigno Aquino’s cousin.

Kuala Lumpur-based AirAsia has set up similar joint ventures in Thailand and Indonesia and has previously announced plans to set up a unit in Vietnam.

The official said AirAsia would probably take a 40 percent stake in the new company, the maximum allowed under Philippine rules, and that the expansion plan had been in the pipeline for a few years.

"We will make it happen as fast as we can. Definitely we are looking at next year for the take off of the domestic and overseas routes," said the official.

AirAsia in a statement Wednesday confirmed it had been "exploring the feasibility" of setting up a joint venture in the Philippines.

Last month AirAsia said net profit for the September quarter rose to 327.29 million ringgit (62.89 million dollars) from 130.07 million ringgit in the same period last year.

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