AirAsia, the low-cost airline in Southeast Asia, is considering an initial coin offering (ICO) as part of a push into financial services.
Tony Fernandes, CEO of the $3 billion company which is publicly listed in Malaysia, told TechCrunch that he is analyzing the potential to hold an ICO that would raise money by introducing its own cryptocurrency.
“We have two things that are very interesting which will have relevance to ICOs, one is our loyalty card where we have [loyalty program] BIG Points, and I think those BigPoints can be easily transferred to the blockchain,” Fernandes said on the sidelines of Money2020 in Singapore.
“We have a product that can be a currency in Big Loyalty, [and] we’re building a payment platform so the two can marry quite nicely. We have an ecosystem that enables you to use that currency, there’s no point having a currency that can’t be used,” he added.
Fernandes has built a reputation as a businessman who is prepared to take risks and chase new ideas. AirAsia pioneered the low-cost airline model in Southeast Asia, where it claims some 65 million registered customers, and Fernandes himself owns English football club QPR and once founded a Formula One team.
ICOs generated more than $6 billion for startups last year, with Southeast Asia, and Singapore in particular, emerging as a particular hub. To date, however, most ICO have been undertaken by young companies, if it did opt for an ICO, AirAsia would be the most established — and highest-valued — consumer business to take that route.
Messaging app Telegram is a notable example, however. Earlier this month, the company closed an initial $850 million in funding as part of an ICO that could bring in as much as $2 billion in total.
At this point, it is not clear how much AirAsia might raise in an ICO.
Fernandes’ newest strategy for AirAsia is to move into financial services as it aims to grow to 100 million customers. Beyond a proposed payment platform that would make its cabins ‘cash-less,’ the Fernandes announced this week that it will look into offering loans and insurance services to its users with the aim of helping SMEs and entrepreneurs.130