AirAsia's 1Q profit falls 92%, but group proposes 90 sen special dividend

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KUALA LUMPUR (May 29): AirAsia Group Bhd reported a 92% drop in its net profit to RM96.09 million for the first quarter ended March 31, 2019 (1QFY19), compared with the RM1.14 billion it recorded in the previous year's corresponding quarter, when it recorded extraordinary gains.

Revenue for the quarter was higher at RM2.88 billion, up 13% from the RM2.56 billion recorded a year earlier, attributed to an 18% increase in total passengers carried and a 1 percentage point (ppt) improvement in load factor to 88%. The group announced a special dividend of 90 sen per share for the quarter.

In its filing with the exchange, the low-cost airline said its results for the previous year's corresponding quarter included a gain on the partial disposal of a subsidiary of RM350.3 million, and a re-measurement gain on the retained interest in a former subsidiary of RM534.7 million.

Meanwhile, its results for 1QFY19 were impacted by an additional charge of RM38.2 million, following the adoption of Malaysian Financial Reporting Standards 16 (MFRS 16).

While its net profit fell due to the high base effect, the group said its earnings before interest, taxation, depreciation and amortisation (Ebitda) grew 6% to RM678.4 million from RM642.9 million a year earlier.

Among its associate companies, only Thai AirAsia reported net profit, albeit lower at THB902.92 million (RM119.02 million) versus THB1.83 billion a year earlier, while AirAsia India and AirAsia Japan both reported net losses for the quarter.

"With the 1QFY19 results, our ASEAN AOCs (air operator certificates) remain on track to turn profitable this year. All our ASEAN AOCs reported positive Ebitda for the quarter, while demonstrating strong load trend of above 87%.

"AirAsia Indonesia showed tremendous improvement with it narrowing losses by 54% year-on-year on the back of strong demand, with a 7ppts improvement in load factor, 10% improvement in RASK (Revenue per Available Seat Kilometre) and 11% decline in CASK (Cost per Available Seat Kilometre)," said AirAsia deputy group CEO Bo Lingam in a statement.

Looking ahead, the group remains positive that the overall core results of the group in 2019 will be better than 2018, barring unforeseen circumstances.

AirAsia said it sees strong load factor momentum for the rest of 2019, adding that it maintains its strategy to gain dominance in the countries it operates in, especially in the ASEAN region.

It has planned for a net fleet growth of 18 aircrafts, with a substantial portion of its new fleet bound for AirAsia India, ahead of expected changes in India's operating landscape in the near future, on top of its target to fly international by the end of this year.

The group will also add two aircraft in Indonesia to further develop domestic tourism, aided by its strong international presence through its hub strategy.

While it does not see any material negative impact from the US-China trade war, AirAsia said currency weakness remains a concern for the group.

Meanwhile, the group will proceed with its transformation into a travel and financial platform. Its teleport business — the logistics business — is expected to see growth as the group seeks tie ups with different airlines and SMEs.

"We are positive that our transformation into a travel and financial platform company is gaining momentum this year. We have seen encouraging growth for our platform businesses especially Teleport, which manages the aircraft freight belly space of AirAsia and third-party airlines.

"Teleport has shown significant potential despite having only been operating for less than a year. This quarter alone, Teleport reported RM101 million in revenue, which is in line to reach our revenue target of RM400 million this year," said AirAsia deputy group CEO (Digital & Technology) Aireen Omar.

Meanwhile, AirAsia.com is being developed as a full-fledged one-stop travel and lifestyle platform whilst BigPay will be rolled out in multiple markets in ASEAN with the target to get an e-money licence in Singapore in 2019, she added.

AirAsia shares rose 1 sen or 0.38% to RM2.63, translating to a market capitalisation of RM8.79 billion, before trading of the stock was suspended earlier today. It will resume trading tomorrow.