* Postpones 12 Boeing deliveries, 4 from Airbus
* Deals will reduce capex in 2019, 2020
* Passenger growth lags capacity increase
* Gain from hedging reaches NOK 627 mln
* January yield beats forecast (Releads with postponed aircraft deliveries)
By Terje Solsvik
OSLO, Feb 6 (Reuters) - Norwegian Air postponed delivery of 16 aircraft from Boeing and Airbus to cut its capital expenditure as part of a broader strategy shift to focus on profitability over growth, the loss-making carrier said on Wednesday.
Norwegian will put off delivery of 12 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft from 2020 to 2023 and 2024, and four Airbus 321LR from 2019 to 2020, reducing its investments this year and leading to a further significant cut next year, it said.
“The postponements are in line with the company’s strategy of capitalising on the scale built up over the last few years,” Norwegian said in a statement.
The airline, which has rapidly expanded its transatlantic business, recently announced plans to cut costs and raise cash from owners after IAG, British Airways’ parent company, abandoned its attempt to buy the firm.
It did not say whether the changes of delivery schedules would affect prices for the aircraft.
Norwegian made more money than expected from each passenger in January but was less successful in filling its planes as it resisted slashing fares to sell tickets, its monthly traffic report showed earlier on Wednesday.
“Norwegian has been through a period with significant growth, but now the company will change its strategic focus from expansion and growth to profitability,” Chief Executive Bjoern Kjos said, echoing recent statements by the board.
The airline has shaken up long-haul rivals by offering cut-price transatlantic fares, but its rapid expansion has left it with hefty losses and high debts, leading it to shift recently to focus on bolstering its finances.
For the quarter-to-date, Norwegian Air estimated a gain of NOK 627 million from hedging, including NOK 701 million related to unrealized hedge positions.
Norwegian’s yield, a measure of revenue per passenger carried and kilometres flown, grew to 0.35 Norwegian crowns from 0.32 crowns a year earlier. Analysts had expected an increase to 0.33 crowns.
Norwegian expanded its capacity in January by 27 percent year-on-year but revenue-generating passenger kilometres increased by only 18 percent, lagging a forecast of 20.1 percent passenger growth in a Reuters poll of analysts.
The airline’s load factor, a measure of how many seats are sold on each flight, fell to 76.1 percent in January, traditionally a time when travel ebbs following the holiday season. Analysts had forecast a load factor of 79.1 percent compared with 82.0 percent a year earlier.
Norwegian’s shares were up 1.4 percent at 1332 GMT, trading at 126.5 crowns. (Writing by Michael Kahn and Terje Solsvik; Editing by Nerijus Adomaitis and Jan Harvey)