AirAsia (AK, Kuala Lumpur Int'l) will partner Japan's biggest online retailer, Rakuten Inc, in the launch of its latest attempt at entering the Japanese market - AirAsia Japan (DJ, Nagoya Chubu). According to the Nikkei business newswire, AirAsia CEO, Tony Fernandes, and Rakuten's founder and president, Hiroshi Mikitani, will make the announcement on July 1.

The LCC is expected to establish a primary hub out of Nagoya Chubu.

While no exact details of the proposed deal have yet been revealed, it is believed both entities will hold less than a third of the start-up's over shareholding. AirAsia, as a foreign investor, would only be able to hold a 33% stake given existing Japanese investment laws capping foreign ownership at 33%.

Rakuten is expected to leverage the carrier to push its online travel site offerings ahead of rival JTB Corporation, a Japanese travel agency aiming to acquire a stake in Spring Airlines (9C, Shanghai Hongqiao) subsidiary, Spring Airlines Japan (IJ, Tokyo Narita), set to launch in August this year.