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Cathay Pacific expects profit rise despite hedging loss

03/07/2016| 11:58:34 AM|

Cathay Pacific Airways reports full-year results and is expected to post a profit increase mostly thanks to fuel savings, though it loses bigger from fuel hedging.

In a poll of 19 analysts by Bloomberg, Hong Kong carrier Cathay Pacific is expected to post net profit of HK$5.5 billion for last year, up 75 percent from HK$3.15 billion in 2014. Their estimates for revenue average at HK$104.5 billion, a slight decrease from HK$105.99 billion a year ago.

Cathay Pacific, which made wrong bets on oil prices by having locked in prices at higher than current levels, did not benefit as much from plunging oil prices that are helping the airline industry save on its largest single cost. The International Air Transport Association estimate global airlines had saved US$$91.1 billion on their fuel bills in 2015, though lowered fuel surcharges are eroding airline revenues despite boosting traffic.

Cathay's fuel hedging contracts extend till 2019, with roughly 60 percent of its 2016 fuel consumption hedged at about US$85 per barrel, according to the company.

In 2014 fuel hedging cost Cathay HK$911 million in earnings and HK$12.5 billion in reserves, which eroded its book value by about 20 percent.

Still, the carrier is expected to have saved on fuel despite the hedging losses. CLSA analyst Rajani Khetan estimates Cathay's fuel bill is down HK$6.03 billion from HK$39.47 billion last year to HK$33.45 billion, while Bocom International's Geoffrey Cheng estimates its fuel bill will decrease to HK$30 billion.

Fuel surcharges that passengers pay on outbound flights from Hong Kong -- scrapped starting from last month -- were shaved over the course of last year. The surcharge was HK$129 for short-haul flights and HK$566 for long-haul in January 2015, compared to HK$25 for short-haul and HK$112 by the end of the year, according to the Civil Aviation Department's website.

Cathay Pacific in January said passenger load factor had risen to a record 86 percent for the month, but its premium cabins remained not full enough. It announced a rebranding of its short-haul subsidiary Dragonair as Cathay Dragon in order to leverage on the premium image of the Cathay brand.

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TAGS: Cathay Pacific | aviation | Hong Kong
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