Japan's ANA forecasts return to profit as vaccine roll-outs help revive air travel

Japan's ANA forecasts return to profit as vaccine roll-outs help revive air travel
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TOKYO (April 30): Japan's biggest airline, ANA Holdings Inc, on Friday forecast a return to profit this business year, bouncing back from a record loss on expectations air travel demand will rebound as vaccines contain the coronavirus.

"Based on data from countries where vaccination has progressed, it appears that the spread of Covid-19 can be contained," ANA said in its earnings release.

For the 12 months to March 2022, ANA forecast operating profit of ¥28 billion (US$257.4 million) after a ¥464.7 billion loss in the last business year. That outlook compares with an average estimated loss of ¥69.4 billion based on forecasts from 10 analysts, Refinitiv data showed.

ANA, like other carriers, has been losing money as it burns through cash to keep the jets and workers it will need when travel demand rebounds.

Demand for domestic flights recovered at the end of last year to around half of pandemic levels, but fell back to a quarter as fresh infection waves kept people at home.

International routes are still flying with only around 5% of the passengers they previously had.

ANA expects domestic passenger numbers to recover to four-fifths of pre-pandemic levels this business year and for international routes to be at 30% as restrictions on foreign visitors are eased, chief executive officer Shinya Katanozaka said at a press briefing.

International travel is unlikely to fully recover until 2024, he added.

Japan's borders remain closed to most foreign non-residents. In 2020, the number of overseas visitors to Japan plunged by almost nine-tenths to a 22-year low.

Although it carried fewer people, the Japanese airline hauled more goods, with profits from its air cargo business more than doubling in the three months to March 31 compared with the same quarter a year earlier.

It was not enough, however, to make up for losses from passenger planes, with ANA posting a fourth-quarter operating loss of ¥102.3 billion versus a loss of ¥58.8 billion a year earlier. That result for the three months to March 31 was worse than an estimated average loss of ¥60 billion from three analysts surveyed by Refinitiv.