Thai Airways posts record S$6.19 billion loss as debt revamp looms

Thai Airways is preparing to submit a debt rehabilitation plan to the bankruptcy court in Bangkok by March 2. PHOTO: REUTERS

BANGKOK (BLOOMBERG) - Thai Airways International, the nation's flag carrier in the middle of a debt restructuring, reported a record loss last year after the coronavirus outbreak ground most of its services to a halt.

The net loss widened to 141.2 billion baht (S$6.19 billion), or 64.68 baht a share, from 12 billion baht, or 5.51 baht a share in 2019, Thai Airways said in an exchange filing Thursday (Feb 24). The annual loss was the largest ever for a Thai company, according to data compiled by the Stock Exchange of Thailand.

Revenue slumped 73.8 per cent to 48.3 billion baht. Thai Airways, which has posted losses every year barring one since 2013, is preparing to submit a debt rehabilitation plan to the bankruptcy court in Bangkok by March 2 in a bid to reduce its liabilities from 336.7 billion baht and return to profit.

The airline has sold stakes in some units, cut staff and opened its flight simulators to the public to generate additional revenue and cushion the blow from an unprecedented hit to global tourism and travel industry.

While the airline expects its performance in the first half to improve from a year ago with easing of some travel curbs, it will still be "negative," it said in the statement. While tourism-reliant Thailand has eased curbs on foreign tourists, a mandatory two-week quarantine and a fresh wave of infections have kept most visitors away. Wider availability of Covid-19 vaccines will be the key to reviving travel demand, the airline said.

"Vaccines will be a significant factor in the aviation industry because it affects entry restriction policy of Thailand and other countries around the world and would increase the travelling confident of tourists," Thai Airways said. "However, air travel around the world is expected to return to normal in 2024."

The airline's losses last year included one-time expenses of almost 92 billion baht from an employee separation plan and impairment losses on aircraft, right-of-use assets and aircraft spare parts, it said in the statement. The widening losses sent Thai Airways equity to a negative 127 billion baht at the end of last year, it said.

Thai Airways shares, up 29 per cent this year, were suspended on Thursday as the Stock Exchange of Thailand considered whether the company is subject to delisting because of its negative equity. The bourse will decide on delisting of the stock within seven days, or by March 7, it said in a statement.

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