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AirAsia interested in potential Airbus A321neo freighter

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November 3, 2021

By Liz Lee

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) -Malaysia’s AirAsia Group Bhd is in talks with Airbus SE about its interest in the manufacturer developing a new freighter version of its A321neo passenger plane, the head of its logistics arm said on Wednesday.

AirAsia would seek to convert a “meaningful chunk” of its 362 orders for the passenger version of the A321neo narrowbody to a dedicated freighter, said Pete Chareonwongsak, CEO of AirAsia logistics division Teleport.

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“For a lot of the markets that we need to reach both in range but also in capacity, it’s a great product,” he told reporters of the potential freighter. “Would we be the launch customer? I don’t know. We’ll see.”

Chareonwongsak cited reports https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-10-18/jd-logistics-goes-shopping-for-planes-to-tap-air-freight-demand that China’s JD Logistics Inc plans to have a fleet of 100 freighters by 2030 as an example of the scale that AirAsia could seek in its cargo business as it focuses on growth in e-commerce.

“We think that Southeast Asia, if we focus on this market, can absorb that level of capacity,” he said.

Airbus had no immediate comment.

Industry website Leeham News in August reported Airbus was in talks with customers about a new freighter version of the A321neo.

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Airbus in July announced plans for a freighter version of its A350 widebody jet, in a challenge to Boeing Co’s longstanding dominance of the market for dedicated cargo planes.. Boeing is also expected to launch a freight version of its 777X big jet soon, with Qatar Airways and FedEx seen as potential launch customers, market sources say.

In the narrowbody market, older versions of the A321 and 737 passenger planes are being converted into freighters but there is no new-build freighter plane on offer.

DEMAND DILEMMA

Airbus has looked at the possibility of offering new A320-family freighters in the past. In 2007, for example, Belgian express carrier TNT talked to Airbus about launching such a programme with a large order, Flightglobal reported at the time.

But since then demand for the passenger version of the A320 family has soared and Airbus faces little or no pressure to win freighter sales to add volume, industry sources cautioned. It is debating instead how to manage existing production demands.

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Any new product would also have to overcome the hurdle of justifying a $2 billion or so investment with fresh demand, without simply displacing existing orders for jetliners.

“It is better to facilitate the passenger-to-freight conversion market,” one industry source said.

The coronavirus crisis has nonetheless shed light on opportunities for narrow-body freight traffic as airlines shipped goods using passengers jets as temporary freighters.

Teleport on Wednesday launched its first 737-800 freighter to be based in Bangkok. It plans to grow the fleet to six planes by 2023, Teleport Chief Operating Officer Adrian Loretz said.

Teleport is in talks with investors to raise $50 million to $100 million by the end of the year and would look to list as a separate company in three years, Chareonwongsak said.

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The division, which also carries cargo in the belly of AirAsia passenger planes and has a food and parcel delivery business, is aiming for $1 billion of annual revenue within three years, he added.

(Reporting by Liz Lee in Kuala LumpurAdditional reporting and writing by Jamie Freed and Tim HepherEditing by Kim Coghill and Mark Potter)

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Bukele steps up El Salvador’s bet on sliding bitcoin; buys another 150 coins

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December 5, 2021

SAN SALVADOR (Reuters) – El Salvador President Nayib Bukele said the Central American country had acquired an additional 150 bitcoins after the digital currency’s value slumped again, enlarging his bet on the cryptocurrency despite criticism.

Bitcoin, the world’s biggest and best-known cryptocurrency, is down about 30% from the year’s high of $69,000 on Nov. 10. Bukele said last week that El Salvador had acquired 100 additional coins to take advantage of the currency weakening.

Late on Friday, Bukele announced the government had stepped into the market again.

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“El Salvador just bought the dip! 150 coins at an average USD price of ~$48,670,” Bukele wrote on Twitter.

Until Nov. 26, El Salvador had 1,220 bitcoins.

In September El Salvador became the world’s first nation to adopt bitcoin as legal tender, a move that generated global media attention but also attracted criticism from the opposition and foreign financial institutions.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said on Monday that El Salvador should not use bitcoin as legal tender, considering risks related to the cryptocurrency.

(Reporting by Nelson Renteria; Writing by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Daniel Wallis)

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Bitcoin falls 9.2% to $48,782

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December 4, 2021

(Reuters) – Bitcoin dropped 9.29% to $48,752.15 at 22:01 GMT on Saturday, losing $4,991.54 from its previous close.

Bitcoin, the world’s biggest and best-known cryptocurrency, is down 29.3% from the year’s high of $69,000 on November 10.

Ether, the coin linked to the ethereum blockchain network, dropped 3.61% to $4,070.52 on Saturday, losing $152.28 from its previous close.

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(Reporting by Juby Babu in Bengaluru; Editing by Daniel Wallis)

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Trump’s social media venture says it has raised $1 billion

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December 4, 2021

By Krystal Hu and Juby Babu

(Reuters) – Donald Trump’s new social media venture said on Saturday it had entered into agreements to raise about $1 billion from a group of unidentified investors as it prepares to float in the U.S. stock market.

The capital raise, details of which were first reported by Reuters on Wednesday, underscored the former U.S. president’s ability to attract strong financial backing thanks to his personal and political brand. He is working to launch a social media app called TRUTH Social that is at least several weeks away.

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Digital World Acquisition Corp, the blank-check acquisition firm that will take Trump Media & Technology Group Corp public by listing it in New York, said it will provide up to $293 million to the partnership with Trump’s media venture, taking the total proceeds to about $1.25 billion.

The $1 billion will be raised through a private investment in public equity (PIPE) transaction from “a diverse group of institutional investors,” Trump Media and Digital World said in a statement. They did not respond to requests to name the investors.

Trump Media inked its deal with Digital World to go public in October at a valuation of $875 million, including debt. The social media venture is now valued at almost $4 billion based on the price of Digital World shares at the end of trading on Friday. Trump supporters and day traders snapped up the stock.

Many Wall Street firms such as mutual funds and private equity firms snubbed the opportunity to invest in the PIPE. Among those investors who participated were hedge funds, family offices and high net-worth individuals, Reuters reported on Wednesday. Family offices manage the wealth of the very rich and their kin.

Some Wall Street investors are reluctant to associate with Trump. He was banned from top social media platforms after the Jan. 6 attack by his supporters on the U.S. Capitol amid concerns he would inspire further violence. The Capitol attack was based on unsubstantiated claims of widespread fraud in last year’s presidential election.

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“As our balance sheet expands, Trump Media & Technology Group will be in a stronger position to fight back against the tyranny of Big Tech,” Trump said in a statement on Saturday.

The deal also faces regulatory risk. U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren asked Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Gary Gensler last month to investigsate the planned merger for potential violations of securities laws around disclosure. The SEC has declined to comment on whether it plans any action.

Trump Media and Digital World said the per-share conversion price of the convertible preferred stock PIPE transaction represents a 20% discount to Digital World’s volume-weighted average closing price for the five trading days to Dec. 1, when Reuters broke news of the capital raise.

If that price averages below $56 in the 10 days after the merger with Digital World has been completed, the discount will grow to 40% with a floor of $10, the companies added. Digital World shares ended trading on Friday $44.97.

Trump had 89 million followers on Twitter, 33 million on Facebook and 24.5 million on Instagram at the time he was blocked, according to a presentation on his company’s website.

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Investors attending the confidential investor road shows were shown a demo from the planned social media app, which looked like a Twitter feed, Reuters reported.

FIRST-QUARTER ROLLOUT

Since Trump was voted out of office last year, he has repeatedly dropped hints that he might seek the presidency in 2024.

Special purpose acquisition companies such as Digital World had lost much of their luster with retail investors before the Trump media deal came along. Many of these investors were left with big losses after the companies that merged with SPACs failed to deliver on their ambitious financial projections.

TRUTH Social is scheduled for a full rollout in the first quarter of 2022. It is the first of three stages in the Trump Media plan, followed by a subscription video-on-demand service called TMTG+ that will feature entertainment, news and podcasts, according to the news release.

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In a slide deck on its website, the company envisions eventually competing against Amazon.com’s AWS cloud service and Google Cloud.

(Reporting by Juby Babu in Bengaluru and Krystal Hu in New York; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Cynthia Osterman)

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