Air Astana (KC, Astana Nursultan Nazarbayev) aims to raise around USD120 million in dual listings on the London and Kazakhstan stock exchanges, a move in which both of its shareholders - the Samruk Kazyna Sovereign Wealth Fund and British aerospace and defence company BAe Systems - will divest shares and global depositary receipts (GDRs), the Kazakh flag carrier has announced.

BAe Systems currently holds a 49% stake in Air Astana, Samruk-Kazyna the other 51%. The fundraising is designed “to support the company’s growth strategy” and will also involve issuing new shares and GDRs. Each GDR represents four shares.

The intention is to conduct an initial public offering (IPO) in London (which the carrier calls the “global offer”) of its GDRs and a concurrent offering in Kazakhstan (the “domestic offer”) in the form of shares and GDRs.

The move “will accelerate the next stage of growth for Air Astana Group, and we see significant opportunities to thicken our existing routes and expand into new geographic areas, supported by our continued fleet expansion plan and initiatives to increase operational flexibility,” said Air Astana CEO Peter Foster.

Book building including a price range announcement, as well as a roadshow, are expected to be launched around the end of January 2024, but no timeline was presented beyond that. The group includes “two differentiated but complementary brands”, the full-service Air Astana and low-cost carrier FlyArystan (KC, Astana Nursultan Nazarbayev), the statement confirmed.

The group operates a fleet of 49 aircraft split between Air Astana and FlyArystan, the ch-aviation fleets module shows, namely eleven A320-200s, thirteen A320-200Ns, two A321-200s, four A321-200Ns, eleven A321-200NX(LR)s, three B767-300ERs, and five E190-E2s. FlyArystan is working on a plan to obtain its own air operator’s certificate (AOC) and double its fleet size by the end of 2027.

The group has “committed deliveries of 22 aircraft through to 2026 to support future expansion from the existing fleet [and aims to expand] to 80 aircraft by YE2028,” the statement said.

Earlier this year, it was reported that an IPO had been scheduled for the first half of 2024. Before that, the company had made plans to go public in 2013 and then in 2016. Late in 2021, it reportedly deferred the plans until at least 2025.

In March 2022, Kazakhstan’s antitrust regulator, the Agency for the Protection and Development of Competition, suggested that FlyArystan could be made more competitive by being taken out of state hands. However, a year later, Foster rejected the idea that a spinoff of the budget carrier was on the table, and last month the group confirmed that this was the case.

Last week, Samruk-Kazyna announced the launch of a second open tender for the acquisition of between 49% and 100% of another state-owned carrier, Qazaq Air (IQ, Astana Nursultan Nazarbayev), following the failure of a first attempt.