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AWSJ: Hopes For MAS Takeoff Dim
By Zach Coleman

5/6/2001 12:09 am Tue

[Lihatlah apa yang sudah jadi kepada MAS setelah dikerjakan oleh Tajuddin Ramli.... Ia sudah tidak berkilauan lagi. MAS mencatat kerugian PALING TERUK dalam sejarah penubuhannya. Yang peliknya Utusan Malaysia menyandarkan kerugian itu kepada kemelesetan ekonomi Amerika sedangkan Singapore Airlines boleh untung walaupun dihempap kemelesetan itu juga. - Editor] pi_news_id=698836&pi_ctry=my&pi_lang=en

AWSJ: Heard In Malaysia: Hopes For Malaysian Air Takeoff Dim

By Zach Coleman

Staff Reporter

Investors are in no rush to climb aboard Malaysian Airline System. They had high hopes that the Malaysian flag carrier's performance would take off again after Tajudin Ramli - formerly the airline's chairman and biggest shareholder - turned over the controls. The idea was that new managers and owners would make tough restructuring decisions to reduce losses and debt, get clearance to raise domestic air fares from the government and form an alliance with a foreign partner to contribute capital, network traffic and management expertise. Now, five months after Tan Sri Tajudin sold his 29% stake back to the government in an unpopular buyout and three months after he quit MAS, hopes are fading. Losses are mounting and investors see little reason to expect much improvement soon. MAS's stock has steadily slid in the past four months, and fell 2% on Friday to 2.40 ringgit (63 U.S. cents), down five sen.

Damian Kestel, of Indosuez W.I. Carr in Hong Kong, says clients have no patience to hear about MAS's potential turnaround. "Nothing changes, no one wants to listen."

MAS's annual results, released last week, offered little solace. At 1.3 billion ringgit ($342.1 million), the company's net loss was nearly two times what a consensus of analysts had estimated and five times the size of the previous year's loss. Even those poor results were padded by 235.8 million ringgit in profit from the sale of planes and engines and 171.8 million ringgit from an insurance claim for writing off the full value of an Airbus 330 damaged by a spill of chemicals it was carrying as cargo.

The results, said analyst Peter Negline of J.P. Morgan Chase, "showed an alarming deterioration in the business" during the quarter that ended in March. The annual loss brought MAS shareholder equity down to its lowest level in nine years. "They can't afford to keep losing money at this rate," he said.

MAS's share of seats filled by paying passengers rose to 74.8% from 71.4% and revenue increased 10% for the year. But costs rose 13%. That gap was driven by a 48% increase in fuel costs and a 59% increase in aircraft leasing expenses, a downside of the carrier's tactic of taking quick profit from selling and leasing back planes.

And even at a time when its competitors rode record cargo traffic to profitability, MAS's cargo operations have stumbled. Unhappy shippers are moving freight by truck to connect to flights in neighboring Singapore to get around the problems at Kuala Lumpur International Airport. MAS's cargo business posted a pretax loss of 169.9 million ringgit last year.

Mohamed Nor Yusof, appointed managing director of the airline in February, said last Tuesday that the airline wanted to return to profitability in two years, and set a target of 341 million ringgit. To do that, he said MAS would streamline its international routes, reorganize its domestic network, ask the government again for permission to raise domestic fares and implement a revenue management system. Speaking to analysts Friday, Datuk Mohamed Nor outlined detailed targets for cutting costs in catering, distribution, cargo and maintenance, according to one person who attended.

Analysts say the airline's proposal last month to issue 800 million ringgit in convertible preference shares should provide temporary relief, but they are waiting to hear more from the new management. "There's a lot of work to be done," said Chong Yoon Chou, a fund manager with Aberdeen Asset Management Asia.

Despite lingering speculation about a white knight in the form of Swissair, Qantas or KLM, Mark Webb, airline analyst with HSBC Securities in Singapore, said he doubts it will happen. "I don't see any airlines queuing up," he said. "Why sink money into an airline like MAS?"

Mr. Webb believes that for MAS, the key to returning to profitability is an acknowledgement that Kuala Lumpur is no Hong Kong or Singapore.

"Kuala Lumpur is a relatively small business and financial center," he says. "Premium paying passengers don't want to go Kuala Lumpur." He suggests the carrier should recast itself as "more protected and less competitive, and thus more profitable," niche regional player. According to a person who attended MAS's analyst briefing, the airline is hoping to do just that by refocusing on regional routes such as those to Hong Kong and Sydney.

Analyst Timothy Ross of UBS Warburg considers MAS undervalued relative to the market value of its fleet. He sees the potential for a 49% rise in MAS stock in the next year, the second highest among the 16 airlines he tracks. But even with that upside, Mr. Ross projects that MAS will stay in the red for at least another year and rates the stock only a "hold."

What MAS's new management is up against is more than the airline's own problems. With falling cargo traffic, slowing passenger business and high fuel prices in Asia and Malaysia facing its own economic difficulties, fund managers such as Mr. Chong are going to "Wait and see."


05:27 PM Copyright (c) 2001 , Dow Jones & Company Inc

Utusan Malaysia:

MAS rugi RM1.303 bilion

Kemelesetan ekonomi AS dikaitkan dengan kerugian terbesar dalam sejarah

KUALA LUMPUR 29 Mei - Penerbangan Malaysia (MAS) yang telah diambil alih oleh kerajaan awal tahun ini menanggung kerugian sebelum cukai sebanyak RM1.303 bilion bagi tahun kewangan berakhir 31 Mac 2001 - kerugian terbesar dalam sejarah syarikat penerbangan itu.

Kerugian itu adalah lima kali ganda besar daripada kerugian sebelum cukai RM236.9 juta pada tahun kewangan 2000.

Tetapi jumlah perolehan syarikat penerbangan Malaysia itu pula meningkat kepada RM8.956 bilion bagi tahun kewangan semasa berbanding RM8.160 bilion bagi tahun kewangan 2000.

Syarikat penerbangan itu tidak mengumumkan sebab-sebab kerugiannya secara terperinci tetapi perbelanjaannya telah bertambah besar pada saat-saat ekonomi global diserang kemelesetan ekonomi Amerika Syarikat (AS).

``Perbelanjaan kumpulan telah meningkat sebanyak 13 peratus kepada RM10.802 bilion yang dikaitkan dengan kenaikan sebanyak 47.9 peratus untuk harga minyak dan bahan bakar,'' menurut MAS kepada Bursa Saham Kuala Lumpur (BSKL) hari ini.

Selain itu, sewaan pesawat bagi tahun kajian juga meningkat sebanyak 59.2 peratus, jelas syarikat penerbangan itu lagi.

Perlunasan kerugian tukaran mata wang asing terhadap penilaian liabiliti jangka panjang pula bernilai RM52.5 juta bagi suku keempat dan RM419.2 juta bagi tahun kewangan 2001.

Prestasi syarikat-syarikat penerbangan berhubung rapat dengan prestasi ekonomi negara-negara yang ditawarkan perkhidmatannya.

Menurut MAS lagi, kemelesetan ekonomi AS memberi kesan kepada negara-negara terbabit dan juga syarikat-syarikat penerbangan udara.

Bagi mengatasi masalah itu, MAS me-ningkatkan program utama pemulihan untuk menjadikannya kembali untung.

``Beberapa siri program dikenal pasti termasuklah menyelaraskan jaringan laluan antarabangsa dan proses meningkatkan operasi-operasi utamanya,'' kata syarikat itu yang merancang pelaksanaan program-program tersebut secara fasa demi fasa.

Sebagai sebuah syarikat yang bermasalah dengan bebanan hutang melebihi RM10 bilion, MAS dijangka menerbitkan saham keutamaan bernilai RM800 juta untuk membeli pesawat baru dan membiayai operasinya.

Tetapi penganalisis mendakwa saham keutamaan itu tidak akan menarik pelabur asing, malah, lebih sesuai untuk ditawarkan kepada dana amanah kerajaan.

MAS dikuasai oleh kerajaan selepas Kementerian Kewangan membeli 29.09 peratus pegangan saham daripada ahli perniagaan terkemuka Tan Sri Tajudin Ramli.