VietJet stock soars 20% on market debut

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HANOI: Vietnamese budget airline VietJet, famed for its bikini-clad air hostesses, jumped the maximum 20 percent on its trading debut Tuesday as investors bet on the surging appetite for travel among the country’s increasingly well-heeled middle class.

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The country’s largest private airline soared to 108,000 dong ($4.74) in early trading in Ho Chi Minh City, valuing it at $1.4 billion, up from its initial listing of $1.2 billion, and placing it among the largest companies on the main stock exchange

Founder Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao, Vietnam’s first female billionaire, remains its biggest shareholder according to Bloomberg News, owning some 60 percent of the shares directly and through other entities.

“VietJet shall maintain a continuous and high growth rate and we believe that there will be a brighter future in the air for our passengers, the airline and its investors,” she said in a statement.

Vietnam’s low-cost air travel industry has grown rapidly, with the aviation market expanding around 30 percent between 2012 and 2016.

Tourism has mushroomed across Southeast Asia and in September the head of aviation’s world governing body, the IATA, urged regional governments to invest in infrastructure to keep pace with the rapid increase in passenger numbers.

VietJet, which has drummed up publicity by featuring bikini-wearing air stewardesses on some inaugural flights and in their annual calendar, said its revenue last year was $1.21 billion, with a net profit of $105 million.

Founded in 2007, the airline now has a fleet of 45 airplanes and operates more than 30 routes domestically and internationally, with plans to expand flights in Asia-Pacific.

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