‘Bikini airline’ Vietjet’s stocks soar as company goes public

By: Euan Black - Posted on: February 28, 2017 | Business

Vietnam’s only privately owned airline, Vietjet, issued 300m shares on the Ho Chi Minh City Stock Exchange Tuesday morning. By 9:19am, the stock price had jumped from $3.95 to $4.74, valuing the low-cost airline at $1.42 billion

A Vietjet crew member closes the door of a A320 airplane before departure for Bangkok at Noi Bai international airport in Hanoi. Photo: Nguyen Huy Kham/Reuters
A Vietjet crew member closes the door of a A320 airplane before departure for Bangkok at Noi Bai international airport in Hanoi. Photo: Nguyen Huy Kham/Reuters

In a much-anticipated initial public offering (IPO), Vietjet issued 300m shares on the Ho Chi Minh City Stock Exchange Tuesday morning and soon hit the maximum permitted 20% daily increase in share price.

Shares were initially offered at VND90,000 ($3.95), but were being traded at VND108,000 ($4.74) by 9:19am.

Leveraging its position as the country’s first privately owned airline, Vietjet managed to record profits in only its second year of operation and now commands a 40% share of the domestic aviation market.

In 2016, the company increased its revenue to $1.21 billion, up from $488 million in 2015.

Vietjet’s success, however, has not been without controversy. In 2012, Vietjet’s president and CEO Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao came under fire for asking five candidates in a local beauty contest to wear bikinis and present in-flight performances “for the benefit of beauty and happiness”. Despite widespread criticism of the ‘performances’, flight attendants continue to don bikinis on inaugural flights to beach locations, earning Vietjet the ‘bikini airline’ moniker.

In a statement released this afternoon, Thao, who is Southeast Asia’s first self-made female billionaire, spoke of a bright future for the controversial airline.

“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.

“Vietjet is leading the way in becoming an airline with high-quality services and efficient management and as a listed company that meets best standards and practices in Vietnam and internationally.”