Expansionist wants no part of space oddity

High-profile Malaysian entrepreneur Tony Fernandes has said he is looking to expand his Tune Insurance business into Australia.

High-profile Malaysian entrepreneur Tony Fernandes has said he is looking to expand his Tune Insurance business into Australia.

The AirAsia X founder will also establish a regional headquarters in Melbourne from November in a move expected to create 100 jobs. The move comes as Mr Fernandes' Tune Hotels chain is building a 225-room hotel in Melbourne's CBD.

The hotel is the precursor to further Australian expansion, with the budget accommodation group aiming to have up to 15 venues nationwide within five years, Tune chief executive Mark Lankester said.

"Australia is going to be an important market for us, that's why we've set up a regional office in Melbourne," Mr Fernandes told BusinessDay. "Like AirAsia, we'll just build as many as we can and see how far we can go."

Tune was also looking to expand its insurance business through partnerships in Australia. This could provide an additional headache for existing players, which are increasingly battling online rivals in the insurance market.

Victorian Premier Denis Napthine, who is leading a trade summit of 300 businesses to the Asian region, said Tune's opening in Melbourne would create jobs.

He said the state government had provided "modest" support for the Tune Group to come to Australia.

Mr Fernandes' Tune Group is Asia's version of Richard Branson's Virgin empire, having expanded from airlines into hotels and the insurance business.

"He [Branson] wants me to go to space with him. Honestly, I have zero interest in that," Mr Fernandes said.

AirAsia X is keen to expand the regularity of flights into Australia. "We're pressing very hard with the federal government to open up more seats in terms of direct air services from Malaysia," Dr Napthine said.

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