(Updates with details from call with analysts, share price)
SAO PAULO, April 30 (Reuters) - Brazil’s largest airline Gol Linhas Aereas Inteligentes cut its earnings forecasts for 2019 and 2020 on Tuesday after posting a net loss of 32.3 million reais ($8.2 million) in the first quarter.
The airline has posted significant losses in recent quarters but had told investors that the next two years would represent a turnaround for the business, supported largely by Boeing’s troubled 737 MAX planes. Those planes have been grounded around the world for months after two deadly crashes.
Gol said the impact of the groundings was about 40 million reais so far, but said it expected its seven 737 MAX planes to resume operation “in a short time frame.”
Much like Southwest in the United States, Gol exclusively flies Boeing 737 planes, a strategy meant to reduce operating costs, and had bet its future on the new generation MAX. It still expects to receive 129 Boeing 737 MAX planes over the next few years. “The company has confidence in the MAX 8 aircraft,” Gol’s Chief Executive Paulo Kakinoff said in a statement.
Executives said in a call with analysts that they had delayed the return of four older Boeing 737 NG planes in order to compensate for the grounding.
If the groundings are prolonged into July, which is Brazil’s high season, Gol said it could lease some planes returned by India’s Jet Airways , which recently stopped flying indefinitely after a dramatic unraveling.
Gol’s shares were down 1 percent in Sao Paulo in early afternoon trading.
Gol revised its earnings per share outlook for 2019 down to between 1.2 and 1.6 reais, compared to a previous forecast of at least 2.4 reais in profit. It similarly revised lower its 2020 profit estimate to between 1.8 and 2.3 reais per share, from a previous expectation of at least 2.8 reais.
$1 = 3.9400 reais Reporting by Marcelo Rochabrun; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Andrea Ricci