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Published: Thursday February 25, 2010 MYT 8:44:00 PM

AirAsia announces RM639.3mil pre-tax profit

KUALA LUMPUR: AirAsia Bhd announced a pre-tax profit of RM639.317mil for the year ended Dec 31, 2009, a turnaround from a pre-tax loss of RM869.198mil in 2008.

In contrast to the aviation industry gloom, AirAsia Group CEO Tony Fernandes said the budget airlines’ revenue for the year was higher by 11.5% to RM3.179bil against RM2.851bil previously.

In a statement, AirAsia said its passenger growth registered a healthy 21% increase to 14.2 million in the Malaysian operations.

The combined Malaysian, Thailand and Indonesian operations carried 24% more passengers, totalling 22.7 million, it said.

Fernandes said: “We have successfully grown our market share in every market we served, opened up four new bases (Penang, Bandung, Phuket and Surabaya), launched new routes and amassed RM748mil cash in the balance sheet as a bulwark against any contingencies that may arise.”

On the operations in Thailand, Fernandes said AirAsia Thailand has captured a substantial market share and delivered a core operating profit of 334 million baht (RM34.1mil).

The Thai operation is enjoying the cost benefits of the increased number of Airbus A320 aircraft in its fleet, he said.

On AirAsia Indonesia, he said: “Indonesia is in the final stage of its aircraft renewal programme and this will help enhance operational reliability, increase capacity and substantially reduce operational cost.”

As Indonesia received more Airbus A320 aircraft, it would replicate the cost advantages in Malaysia and was on course to deliver sustainable profits for the full year 2010, he said.

Fernandes was optimistic on AirAsia’s prospects in 2010, saying: “There are early signs that the global economy is stabilising and the benefits are already visible in the aviation industry.”

The supply-demand conditions are favourable for an upward fare revision in certain sectors, he said.

”We have identified nine new routes to be launched and this will support passenger growth of 11-14% in 2010,” he said.

Based on the forward-booking trend, the underlying passenger demand in the first quarter 2010 was positive, said Fernandes.

The group is also determined to increase its penetration in the Asean region.

While it was already operating through its hubs in Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand, AirAsia has also entered into a joint venture with VietJet in Vietnam with the goal of launching operations out of that country this year.

On fuel, Fernandes said AirAsia has partially hedged fuel requirements up to December this year.

“This will help mitigate some of the oil price volatility and we are monitoring the market and constantly assessing the feasibility of hedging further our fuel exposure in 2010 and beyond,” he added. -- Bernama

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