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This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily on February 28, 2018

KUALA LUMPUR: AirAsia Bhd, which encompasses Malaysian, Indonesian and Philippine operations, posted a 19.9% decline in net profit to RM372.65 million in the fourth quarter ended Dec 31, 2017 (4QFY17), from RM465.32 million a year ago, dragged down by income tax expense and deferred taxation.

This resulted in lower earnings per share of 11.2 sen in 4QFY17 compared with 16.7 sen in 4QFY16.

Quarterly revenue, however, was up 37.2% to RM2.66 billion in 4QFY17 from RM1.94 billion a year ago, due to consolidation of PT Indonesia AirAsia and Philippines AirAsia Inc’s accounts and a 17% year-on-year (y-o-y) increase in the total passengers carried during the current quarter under review.

In a filing with Bursa Malaysia yesterday, AirAsia said the RM40.5 million income tax expense comprises tax payable on interest income for the listed entity and corporate income taxes for its subsidiaries.

AirAsia also said there was a RM99.5 million deferred tax liability, arising from the difference between the net book value and tax written down value of property, plant and equipment in the quarter under review.  

AirAsia said average fare fell 7% to RM182 in 4QFY17 from RM195 in 4QFY16, while the overall revenue average seat per kilometre dropped 4% to 15.46 sen against 16.14 sen in 4QFY16.

Nevertheless, the airline recorded a marginal 1.1% increase in net profit to RM1.64 billion for full FY17, compared with RM1.62 billion the previous year, as revenue jumped 41.8% to RM9.71 billion from RM6.85 billion in FY16.

AirAsia saw an 11% increase in total passengers carried and a corresponding increase in passenger load factor to 88% in FY17 from 87% in the previous year. However, the average fuel price was higher at US$69 (RM269.79) per barrel of jet kerosene in 4QFY17, compared with US$64 in 4QFY16.

Its net debt after offsetting the cash balances amounted to RM7.4 billion as of end-December 2017, bringing its net gearing ratio to 1.16 times.

On prospects, AirAsia said it is projecting to achieve an average load factor of 87% in 1QFY18 based on its existing forward booking trend.

It is also planning for an additional five aircraft through operating leases in 1QFY18. The airline’s aircraft fleet stood at 123 as at Dec 31, 2017.

In a separate statement, AirAsia group chief executive officer Tan Sri Tony Fernandes said the airline now dominates 55% of the Malaysian market, up from 47% a year ago.

“Our klia2 hub is still the top transit hub by our passengers contributing 61% of the overall Fly-Thru traffic, and a growth of 40% from 1.1 million passengers to 1.5 million passengers year-on-year. We foresee higher uptake of this ancillary product as we continue to strengthen our synergy with our long-haul sister company, AirAsia X Bhd,” he added.

“We will continue to grow our presence and market share in the Asean region, with Vietnam as the final piece of the puzzle to complete our Asean connectivity.”

Barring any unforeseen circumstances, AirAsia said it remains positive that the overall results in 2018 may be better than in 2017.

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