Coronavirus pandemic

Singapore Airlines records first annual loss in 48-year history

The group reported an operating profit of $59 million. ST PHOTO: BENJAMIN SEETOR

The sudden halt in global travel belted Singapore Airlines in the fourth quarter and left it in the red for the year, it reported yesterday.

It is SIA's first annual net loss in its 48-year history.

The airline recorded a net loss of $732.4 million in the three months to March 31, a stark reversal of the $202.6 million profit in the same period last year.

Revenue was hammered as well, falling 22 per cent to $3.2 billion.

Full-year net loss came in at $212 million, down from earnings of $683 million in the previous year, on turnover of $16 billion, a fall of 2.1 per cent.

Operating profit for the year fell 94.5 per cent to $59 million, down from $1.07 billion.

The airline has set up an internal task force "to review all aspects of our operations" so that it will be ready to ramp up when air travel is out of the doldrums.

"This includes any modifications to our in-flight products and end-to-end service delivery to provide additional health and safety assurances to our customers and our crew," said SIA yesterday.

The sudden turn in fortunes came in the last quarter. SIA had, in fact, racked up a strong performance in the preceding nine months, driven by robust passenger traffic numbers and business transformation initiatives.

But once fears about the virus took hold, passenger traffic declined sharply. As a result, it swung into an operating loss of $830 million in the fourth quarter, a reversal of the $253 million profit a year earlier.

"The deterioration in operating performance from January to March 2020 eroded the improvements made in the first nine months of the year," noted SIA.

Fuel prices also plunged unexpectedly in the fourth quarter amid an oil price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia, which led to a supply glut. This led to $198 million in fuel hedging losses for SIA.

Furthermore, the expected capacity cuts in the new financial year will mean lower fuel consumption than anticipated, causing SIA to be in an overhedged position.

"As a result, the group had to record substantial mark-to-market losses of $710 million on these surplus hedges," it added.

Fourth-quarter loss per share was 61.8 cents, against earnings of 17.1 cents a share in the fourth quarter last year.

Full-year loss per share was 17.9 cents a share, against earnings of 57.7 cents a share last year.

No final dividend was declared.

SIA said the prospects of recovery will depend on the easing of border controls and travel restrictions.

"There is no visibility on the timing or trajectory of the recovery at this point, however, as there are few signs of an abatement in the Covid-19 pandemic," it said.

SIA is undertaking a rights issue to raise gross proceeds of $8.8 billion through the sale of rights shares and rights mandatory convertible bonds.

SIA shares hit a 30-year low of $3.74 ahead of yesterday's results before closing down 4.75 per cent at $3.81.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 15, 2020, with the headline Singapore Airlines records first annual loss in 48-year history. Subscribe