SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Singapore Airlines Ltd on Thursday reported a 27 percent fall in third-quarter net profit but beat expectations as revenue growth helped offset higher fuel costs.
The airline is in the second year of a three-year transformation plan designed to cut costs and boost revenue to better compete against Chinese, Middle Eastern and low-cost rivals.
It said forward bookings were tracking in line with its capacity growth but warned uncertainties surrounding U.S.-China trade tariffs and Brexit were clouding the overall demand outlook for passengers and cargo.
Singapore Airlines made S$284 million ($209 million) in the three months ended Dec. 31, down from S$389 million a year-earlier, which was restated to reflect accounting changes.
That beat the S$240.2 million expected by three analysts in estimates obtained by Reuters and Refinitiv.
Group revenues rose 7 percent to S$4.34 billion in the third quarter, despite flat average ticket prices as the airline filled a higher percentage of seats and increased capacity by 5 percent.
During the quarter, the airline began a significant expansion of capacity to the United States, resuming non-stop flights to New York and Los Angeles after a five-year hiatus.
Jet fuel prices fell sharply during the December quarter but the airline said it paid 22.2 percent more on average than a year earlier. The carrier has hedged 80 percent of its fuel for the fourth quarter at an average price of $74 a barrel.
Singapore Airlines plans to merge regional arm SilkAir into its main brand after it begins updating Boeing Co 737 MAX business class cabins with flat-bed seats, which it said on Monday would start in May 2020.
The airline has 19 A380s, making it the second biggest operator behind Emirates. After Airbus announced on Thursday that it would stop A380 production in 2021, Singapore Airlines said that there would be no changes to its A380 operations and the aircraft remained an important part of its fleet.
Reporting by Jamie Freed; editing by Jason Neely and Kirsten Donovan