May 19, 2017 9:42 pm JST

Cambodia names business school after AirAsia's Fernandes

Budget carrier's founder recognized for success as entrepreneur

CK TAN, Nikkei staff writer

Tony Fernandes, third from right, with officials from the University of Cambodia.

KUALA LUMPUR -- Tony Fernandes, group chief executive of budget carrier AirAsia, is known for naming jets after other people, branding them with their pictures. In the past, former Manchester United footballer Park Ji-sung, and more recently Anaz Tajuddin, the carrier's former chief operating officer who died of cancer, were among those honored in this way.

But the University of Cambodia has named a business school and lecture hall after Fernandes in honor of his "outstanding success as an entrepreneur," according to Kao Kim Hourn, the university's founder and president.

"I am not sure I deserve to have a school named after me," said Fernandes in a press release on Friday, "but I hope the students here will be inspired by what they can achieve if they believe the unbelievable, dream the impossible and never take no for an answer."

Kuala Lumpur-based AirAsia, which owns associate airlines in Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines, India and Japan, currently operates five routes to Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. In August, it will add Sihanoukville, connecting the coastal city named after former king Norodom Sihanouk to Kuala Lumpur with four times weekly flights.

The carrier also plans to set up a Cambodia subsidiary, according to news portal Khmer Times on Tuesday. Fernandes is said to have broached the idea to Prime Minister Hun Sen recently at an international forum and received a verbal nod instantly. Cambodia's government is considering the proposal, said the report, quoting a minister.

The carrier recently signed a deal with Chinese state-owned Everbright Group to form AirAsia China. Fernandes described the venture as the "final piece of the puzzle" in its regional expansion. With an estimated cost of $100 million, the plan includes building a budget terminal in Zhengzhou, central China, as well as an airline crew training center and aircraft maintenance facilities.

Fernandes and partners acquired AirAsia in 2001 for 1 ringgit ($0.20) , while taking on debt of 40 million ringgit. From just two planes, the group has grown into Asia's largest budget carrier, with over 200 planes and a network of more than 200 destinations.

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