Malaysia Airlines suffers fourth straight quarter loss

KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) - Struggling flag carrier Malaysia Airlines said on Tuesday it recorded its fourth straight quarterly loss in the last three months of 2013 and warned of a "challenging" year ahead due to intense competition.

The airline reported a net loss of RM343 million (S$131.2 million) for the quarter ending December 31, compared to a RM51.4 million gain in the fourth quarter in 2012, it said.

For the full year, it chalked up RM1.17 billion in losses, almost three times as much as in 2012, when it lost RM433 million amid an aggressive cost-cutting campaign.

It said the 2013 fourth quarter losses were due to the ringgit depreciating, unrealised foreign exchange losses and finance costs.

"Intensified competition" also hurt the carrier with revenue for the quarter inching up less than one per cent to RM3.9 billion.

"Going into 2014, Malaysia Airlines expects the business environment to remain challenging with high fuel prices, volatile foreign exchange and intense competition impacting yield from both existing as well as new entrants into the market," it said in a filing to the stock exchange.

For the full year 2013, the airlines' revenue was RM15.1 billion, up 10 per cent from 2012 as the number of passengers rose almost 30 per cent.

But expenditure also increased 10 per cent to RM14.9 billion year-on-year amid high fuel prices.

"Within this growing market place, Malaysia Airlines had to expand capacity in order to remain relevant as a key player", said Malaysia Airlines Group Chief Executive Officer Ahmad Jauhari Yahya.

"The full year performance of making a bigger loss in 2013 compared to 2012 demonstrates the challenges brought on by intensifying competition leading to lower yields for all players."

Analysts have blamed a combination of stiff competition, poor management, change-resistant unions and government interference for the carrier's poor performance.

In 2012, the carrier admitted it was in "crisis", forcing it to implement a cost-cutting campaign centred on slashing routes and other measures.

In 2011, it chalked up a record RM2.5 billion loss.

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