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JAL says nine-month net profit slips, ups year forecast
by Staff Writers
Tokyo (AFP) Feb 4, 2013

Japan Airlines said Monday net profit in the nine months to December fell to $1.52 billion, but it lifted its full-year profit forecast by more than 16 percent despite recent Dreamliner woes.

JAL, which re-listed its shares in Tokyo last year after a high-profile bankruptcy restructuring, credited its European, US and Southeast Asian business for the boost to the earnings estimate.

However, it warned that Tokyo's strained relations with China and a slow recovery in the global economy made its outlook less clear.

The carrier and rival All Nippon Airways (ANA) have been hit by the worldwide grounding of Boeing's Dreamliner after a number of incidents including a fire on a JAL plane in Boston and an emergency landing on an ANA flight in Japan.

The global no-fly order imposed by US regulators has seen Japan's two biggest carriers -- major customers of the aircraft, with more than 100 combined orders that are central to their ambitious expansion plans -- slash hundreds of flights, affecting tens of thousands of passengers.

The regulators have said they will not allow the 787 to fly again until they are sure the problems around the battery system are fixed.

On Monday, JAL posted a 140.64 billion yen ($1.52 billion) net profit in April-December, down 3.7 percent from a year earlier, but said it would see a profit in the year to March of 163 billion yen from an earlier 140 billion yen forecast.

Sales over the nine-month period rose 3.6 percent at 942.04 billion yen.

Earlier on Monday, JAL said it has postponed the launch of its Tokyo-Helsinki route due to the Dreamliner problems, with a 300 million yen hit to its January sales over the Dreamliner

Operating profit in February and March would shrink by 500 million yen, added JAL President Yoshiharu Ueki.

However, JAL's chief, a former pilot, stood behind the next-generation Dreamliner, which Boeing says is more fuel-efficient due to its construction from lightweight composite fibre materials.

"The battery incident was unfortunate. But it is a wonderful aircraft," Ueki told a Tokyo press briefing.

Rival ANA, which last week posted a 54.6 percent rise in its nine-month net profit, said it expected to take a $15.4 million hit on sales in January owing to hundreds of cancelled flights.

On Monday, JAL said its international passenger segment sales rose 6.7 percent over the year earlier on new routes and services, while domestic passenger revenue rose 1.7 percent year on year in the nine-month period.

The domestic figures reflected a recovery following the 2011 quake-tsunami disaster, the carrier said.

However, JAL warned that it "encountered risks of possible economic stagnation due to the economic slowdown in Europe, China, etc., deflation in Japan, (and) strained diplomatic relations due to territorial issues."

That meant its outlook would "remain opaque", JAL said.

Japanese airlines have been hit by a row between Tokyo and Beijing over sovereignty of a group of islands in the East China Sea, which triggered anti-Japan rallies across China and a consumer boycott of Japanese brands.

"JAL swiftly adjusted down frequency of flights to minimise impact on revenue," it said, referring to slumping demand on its China routes.

JAL re-listed its shares in September, marking a spectacular turnaround three years after it went bankrupt with massive debts and saw its stock delisted from the Tokyo Stock Exchange, Japan's premier bourse.

The new listing followed a share offering that raised around $8.5 billion, the second biggest in the world in 2012 after Facebook's $16 billion offering.

JAL shares finished up 1.19 percent to 3,815 yen on Monday with the results published after the Tokyo market had closed.


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