August 30, 2018 / 2:06 PM / 25 days ago

Surge in second-quarter profit masks underlying challenges for AirAsia

(Reuters) - AirAsia Group (AIRA.KL) reported a surge in second-quarter net profit on the back of a tax benefit, but operating profit fell sharply as fuel and maintenance costs increased.

FILE PHOTO - A man walks past the logo of AirAsia at Don Muang International Airport in Bangkok, Thailand, June 14, 2016. REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom/File Photo

The Malaysian budget carrier said on Thursday that net profit for April-June rose by 147 percent to 361.8 million ringgit (67.63 million pounds). However, that was mainly thanks to a one-off tax benefit from the sale of aircraft last year and masked underlying challenges, particularly for long-haul arm AirAsia X, which swung into the red.

While group revenue rose 10.3 percent in the second quarter from a year earlier to 2.62 billion ringgit, net operating profit fell nearly 18 percent to 324.8 million ringgit.

AirAsia’s load factor, or the percentage of seats filled, fell by 3 percentage points to 86 percent on average at its operations in Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines that are consolidated for accounting purposes.

Capacity at those airlines expanded by 12 percent, outpacing growth in passenger volumes.

Higher fuel prices weighed, particularly on AirAsia X Bhd (AIRX.KL) where they increased by around 25 percent from a year earlier. The unit reported a second-quarter loss of 57.5 million ringgit, reversing a profit of 47.4 million ringgit a year earlier.

AirAsia plans to add five more aircraft to its fleet through operating leases in the second half of 2018 and deploy them to AirAsia X Malaysia and AirAsia X Thailand, it said in a statement.

A month ago, AirAsia X placed an order for 100 A330neo passenger jets worth $30 billion at list prices, with deliveries scheduled to start in the second half of 2019. AirAsia X is Airbus’ biggest customer for the long-haul widebody aircraft.

Group CEO Tony Fernandes said in a series of tweets in July that AirAsia X will pursue an IPO of its Thai arm “soon” as it looks to restructure itself into a group holding company along the lines of its parent AirAsia Group.

Reporting by Liz Lee in Kuala Lumpur; Additional reporting by Chris Thomas in Bengaluru; Editing by Kirsten Donovan and Susan Fenton

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