AirAsia Teams Up With Rakuten for Second Attempt at Japan Market

Tony Fernandes and Hiroshi Mikitani
Tony Fernandes, chief executive officer of AirAsia Bhd., and Billionaire Hiroshi Mikitani, chairman and chief executive officer of Rakuten Inc., shake hands during a news conference in Tokyo. Photographer: Yuriko Nakao/Bloomberg

AirAsia Bhd., the region’s biggest budget carrier, picked e-commerce company Rakuten Inc. as one of its partners for a second attempt at Japan’s aviation market after pulling out of a tie-up with ANA Holdings Inc. last year.

AirAsia will take a 49 percent stake in the new carrier, Rakuten 18 percent and cosmetics producer Noevir Holdings Co. 9 percent with sporting goods vendor Alpen Co. holding 5 percent, according to a statement released in Tokyo today. Octave will own 19 percent. Flights will start next year.

Sepang, Malaysia-based AirAsia ended its venture with ANA last year due to a disagreement over strategy, with the Tokyo-based carrier re-starting the carrier as Vanilla Air Inc. in December. Competition among low-fare airlines is increasing in Japan with three budget carriers starting flights in 2012, and a fourth, Spring Airlines Japan Co. set to start operations next month.

AirAsia didn’t give details about routes.