Vietnam Airlines faces hurdles in launching rebranded offshoot

By Mai Ha-Chi Hieu, Thanh Nien News

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A file photo of a Vasco aircraft at Con Dao Airport in the southern province of Ba Ria-Vung Tau. Photo: Hung Do A file photo of a Vasco aircraft at Con Dao Airport in the southern province of Ba Ria-Vung Tau. Photo: Hung Do


SkyViet, which was restructured from Vietnam Airlines' short-haul carrier Vasco, may have to wait for a while before it can start flying due to new questions about the legitimacy of the restructuring process.
In its recent letter to the government, the Ministry of Planning and Investment has demanded a review of SkyViet Aviation JSC's establishment.
It was responding to the government's request for inputs before a license to provide passenger and goods transport services can be granted.
The ministry said it and the finance ministry had never been consulted on SkyViet's formation. Under existing rules, they must have a say in the business of state-owned enterprises.
Vietnam Airlines owns a stake of 51 percent in SkyViet, which has a chartered capital of VND300 billion (US$13.22 million). Two Techcombank's subsidiaries Techcom Capital and Techcomdeveloper own the rest.
The venture acquired a business license from Ho Chi Minh City Department of Planning and Investment in March and was expected to get a flying license in the second quarter.
The investment ministry also asked the transport ministry to check the value of VASCO's assets that Vietnam Airlines transferred to SkyViet.
The assets were estimated at VND153 billion ($6.74 million), but several media reports have suggested that they could be worth much more than that.
Founded in 1987, Vasco now has a share of around 8 percent in Vietnam's domestic passenger air market, besides hotel and aircraft servicing businesses among others. It posted a profit of VND75.3 billion last year, up 12.6 percent from 2014.
Speaking to Thanh Nien, Deputy Transport Minister Nguyen Hong Truong said Vietnam Airlines hired an independent company to evaluate the assets. 
Previously Vietstar Airlines, a military-run aviation company, has also faced challenges in acquiring a license to provide passenger and goods transport services due to a financial issue.
Founded in 2010 by the defense ministry to provide charter flights, filming and rescue services, the company's equity was estimated at VND652.7 billion ($29.2 million) at the end of last year. But, the finance ministry said that does not meet the minimum of VND700 billion ($31 million) required for an airline with a fleet of up to 10 aircraft and operating international flights.
Vietnam's domestic passenger air market is now dominated by Vietnam Airlines and private low-cost Vietjet Air, with respective shares of 40.8 and 36.3 percent. Jetstar Pacific Airlines, another low-cost carrier run by Vietnam Airlines and Australian-owned Qantas, controls 14.9 percent.
Vietnam's air market is forecast to see a rise of 19 percent to 45 million passengers this year, with the domestic sector accounting for more than 58 percent.

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