ANA leads race to rescue Skymark

It is essential to increase passengers and reduce costs to rehabilitate Skymark.

ANA has domestic and international flight networks and has proposed comprehensive aid measures for Skymark. The proposals include code-sharing flights, which can increase Skymark's revenue and contribution of capital.

"From an objective perspective, [ANA] is a prime candidate," to help Skymark an aviation industry source said.

ANA also on Monday explained the reason for its proposals, saying, "Healthy growth of the aviation industry based on securing safety is imperative."

The major airline assisted Airdo Co. and Skynet Asia Airways Co. in the past, and the firm aims to use such assistance as examples of its ability to help out airlines.

Japan Airlines did not present a proposal, though it once considered joint operations by JAL, ANA and Skymark.

ANA aims to solidify its advantage by expanding air routes based out of Haneda Airport, as Haneda-based routes are used by a large number of passengers and are therefore cash cows for airlines.

ANA Holdings Inc. is expected to be the leading player in helping Skymark Airlines, which is under civil rehabilitation procedures, as about 20 various companies proposed to support the airline before the deadline to be a supporter ended Monday.

The companies offered sponsorship because Skymark's arrival and departure slots at Haneda Airport, which enable 36 daily round trips, are highly attractive.

ANA Holdings, which has All Nippon Airways as a group company, will likely be a key player in the framework to help Skymark rebuild its business.

But there are sources of concern about Skymark, such as the moves of Airbus S.A.S., which demands that the airline pay up to $700 million (S$949 million) in penalties for its breach of contract.

The airline plans to flexibly judge how much of a stake it will hold in Skymark, aiming for a stake of under 20 per cent in consideration of Skymark's independence in management and future allocations of arrival and departure slots at Haneda Airport.

The arrival and departure slots at Haneda Airport are also attractive for AirAsia, a Malaysia-based low-cost carrier. When AirAsia reentered domestic air route services in July 2014, the LCC's Japanese unit said it was deeply interested in beginning Haneda-based services.

In aid to Skymark, AirAsia will likely demonstrate how it lures passengers from overseas and offer code-sharing flights.

Besides airlines, H.I.S. Co., a major travel agency company, and Orix Corp., a major leasing company, are among those that offered to help. The two companies are also considering capital contributions.

The two companies are aiming for new business opportunities, including an expansion of travel service lineups utilizing Skymark's arrival and departure slots at Haneda Airport.

How leasing companies, which are major creditors of Skymark and Airbus, will act will likely affect the selection of supporters.

Major claim by Airbus

When Skymark filed under the Civil Rehabilitation Law, its total debt amount was announced to be about ¥71.1 billion, but the amount did not include the penalty for breach of contract demanded by Airbus.

It is likely Airbus will report the penalty money as its credit in Skymark at the Tokyo District Court by March 18, which is the deadline for Airbus' claims as a creditor.

Though it is uncertain how much of the amount Airbus is demanding will be certified as debt, it is possible that Airbus will have a strong influence on Skymark's business rehabilitation plan as the largest creditor.

ANA is also a large-lot client of Airbus.

"We have enough negotiation power to help [Skymark's negotiations with Airbus] if our company is requested to do so," an executive of ANA said.

Integral Corp., a Tokyo-based investment fund that decided to offer up to ¥9 billion of financial aid to Skymark, aims to hold a majority stake to take the initiative of the business rehabilitation.

Integral said it will elaborate on its possible assistance by the end of this month.

Including companies that will support Skymark but do not stick to holding equity stakes, Skymark's rehabilitation will likely be conducted through a combination of two or more companies.

The Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry has taken wait-and-see attitudes on the surface, but some people concerned hold a cautious attitude toward ANA, which has an overwhelming presence among candidates of supporters, taking the initiative of being a supporter.

Skymark will submit its business rehabilitation plan to the Tokyo District Court by May 29. Negotiations about the details, such as stakes in Skymark to be held by supporter companies, may see rough going.