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Representative image

Singapore Airlines narrows quarterly losses by leaning on cargo revenue

ANI | Updated: Feb 08, 2021 12:00 IST

By Lee Kah Whye
Singapore, February 8 (ANI): Increased flights and lower write-downs resulted in Singapore Airlines (SIA) reporting lower losses of SGD 142 million (USD 106 million) in its fiscal Q3 which ended December 31, 2020. This compares favourably with the huge SGD 2.34 billion (USD 1.75 billion) net loss it incurred in the previous quarter.
Although this was a weaker performance compared with the SGD 315 million (USD 235 million) it made in the corresponding quarter in 2019, it is unsurprising considering the severe impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the travel industry last year.
At an operating level, third-quarter losses stood at SGD 331 million (USD 247 million) which is a sharp reversal of USD 582 million from the USD 335 million operating profit it attained last year. On a nine-month basis, the group was USD 1.64 billion in the red at an operational level, while it reported a USD 2.69 billion net loss.
SIA Group's revenue plunged USD2.54 billion or 76.1 per cent year-on-year to USD 796 million during the third quarter, as all three passenger airlines within the Group, recorded a marked decline in passenger flown revenue due to low traffic. Passenger carriage shrank 97.6 per cent year-on-year but when compared with Q2, this is an increase of 44.8 per cent following a 90.8 per cent increase in passenger capacity.
Group expenditure was down USD 1.96 billion or 65.2 per cent from last year to USD 1.04 billion. Non-fuel expenditure decreased significantly year-on-year, by USD 1.15 billion or 54.7 per cent, on the back of cost-saving initiatives such as capacity cuts and staff-relatedmeasures, as well as government support schemes. Net fuel cost declined USD 696 million or 77.3 per cent to USD 204 million as capacity cuts and lower fuel prices reduced fuel cost before hedging. It also recorded a net gain of USD 47 million on fuel hedging and derivatives.
The Q3 summary report did not mention of Vistara, its JV with Tata Sons. In its full-year financial report for FY 2019/20 which ended March 2020, the airline stated its share of loses from the JV to be SGD 349 million (USD 260 million).
As with most other airlines, the bright spot at the moment is freight revenue, as the global airfreight capacity crunch continued to provide strong support for both load factors and yields.
SIA has deployed all its seven freight dedicated aircraft and another 24 passenger planes to solely carry cargo to meet the increased demand for cargo flights.
In its statement released along with its quarterly results, SIA said," In response to the continued strong demand for pharmaceutical and e-commerce shipments, and an uptick in general cargo demand, SIA added capacity by stepping up the frequency of passenger aircraft operating cargo-only flights and through the resumption of more passenger services. The utilisation of the freighter fleet was also maximised to deliver more cargo capacity."
The Group's cargo network comprises 66 destinations (including Singapore) as at 31 December 2020, up from 62 as of 30 September 2020.
Followingequity and bond issuances, resulting in USD 9.93 billion funds raised, cash and bank balances are healthy and now approximately USD 5.3 billion. SIA continues to have access to more than USD 1.57 billon in committed credit lines, along with the option to raise up to USD 4.6 billion in additional mandatory convertible bonds before the Annual General Meeting in July 2021.
With its cash burn at about USD 187 million a month, it is estimated that it should be able to weather the COVID-19 storm at least until the first quarter of 2024.
As at the end of December 2020, SIA has deployed 64 of its 185 planes to serve 38 destinations including Singapore, up from 31 as at the end of September 2020. During the same period, its subsidiary Silkair increased its destinations from six to eight, whereas low-cost subsidiary Scoot's network remained unchanged at 12 destinations. It has "moth-balled" the remaining 121 aircraft.
From January 2021, SIA has reinstated services to Dubai, Moscow and Munich, while Phuket will be reinstated as a SilkAir destination in February 2021. Based on current schedules, as of end-April 2021, SIA expects the Group's total passenger capacity to beat around 25 per cent of pre-COVID levels, and the airline expects to serve around 45percent of the destinations flown pre-COVID.
The planned integration of SilkAir's narrow-body operations with Singapore Airlines will begin on 4 March 2021, with the first SIA 737-800 NG aircraft operating the service to Phuket, Thailand. This will deliver greater economies of scale for the Group and allow it to deploy the right aircraft to meet the demand for air travel as it returns.
"The resurgence of Covid-19 infections as well as the spread of more transmissible strains of the virus continue to weigh on international air travel, as border controls and travel restrictions tighten in many countries," the airlines said in its Q3 report outlook statement. "The Group expects to see a measured expansion of the passenger network over the coming months. We will continue to monitor the status of travel restrictions and adjust our capacity accordingly to meet the traffic demand."
"The SIA Group is well-positioned to navigate the current uncertainties, cement our leading position in the airline industry in the new normal, will remain nimble and flexible as we look to seize all opportunities, and act swiftly and decisively in a fast-changing aviation environment." (ANI)