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AirAsia has a 'master plan.' Here's what its CEO says is in it

Andrew Wong

The formation of the AirAsia Group has allowed for the possibility of a single company owning 100 percent of all the AirAsia airlines operating in Southeast Asia, according to Tony Fernandes, the group's CEO.

Such a move, he said, could boost share prices for investors.

"One of the reasons I think our share prices have always been held back a little bit is that we have a complicated structure," Fernandes told CNBC. "We've done a lot in terms of cleaning it up, but now, with the formation of AirAsia Group, I've really got the currency to talk to leaders to try and create a 100-percent owned ASEAN airline."

ASEAN, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, is comprised of Laos, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, Cambodia, Myanmar and Brunei.

Eventually, according to Fernandes, shareholders could "trade their shares up to AirAsia Group."

The CEO, who is also the majority shareholder of English football club Queens Park Rangers, elaborated on his overall "great ASEAN master plan," which includes setting up airlines in Myanmar and Vietnam , and eventually creating the airlines' own digital crypto-asset with an initial coin offering (ICO).

"If you look at the big populations [in ASEAN], Vietnam and Myanmar would be the last two," Fernandes said, adding that establishing the airline in those two nations would mean that AirAsia has covered "all the major populated countries," in the region.

'Biggest asset I have is data'

The CEO also told CNBC that he has other plans for the airlines, through utilizing the data and ecosystem that the group already possesses, including providing small loans to customers, and an ICO in the future.

"The biggest asset I have is data," Fernandes said, pointing to digital companies like Uber, which are trying to attain similar data at a steep cost. "We have those customers and we have that ecosystem," he said.

The first step, according to Fernandes, is to "remove cash off the plane."

"So you'll buy food, you'll trade with us using our payment system. But we are also bringing out points, and points are really a digital currency — that's where the ICO comes in," he said, pointing out that many AirAsia passengers are migrant workers who "use foreign exchange services a lot" to send money home.

Eventually, he said, the airline should be able to give out small loans to its customers, but that would probably come from a partnership and may ultimately get spun off.

The future of the company is clear, Fernandes said: "For us, in the airline business, it's getting rid of cash. It's making money from [foreign exchange]. There's a huge amount to be made, for us, from [foreign exchange]."