HONG KONG Jan 16 (Reuters) - Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd, the world's largest air cargo carrier, said on Monday that its December freight volume fell about 12 percent, ending 2011 on a disappointing note, and it saw no sign of improvement in the near term.
Cathay and its unit Dragonair moved a total of 142,122 tonnes of cargoes and mail in December, down 11.9 percent from the same month in 2010, pushing its full year throughput down 8.6 percent to 1.65 million tonnes, it said in a statement.
"The traditional year-end peak for our cargo business simply didn't happen and our December figures were a disappointing end to what was a challenging year overall," said Cathay's General Manager Cargo Sales & Marketing James Woodrow.
"Demand out of our key markets in Hong Kong and Mainland China remain soft and there is no sign of any upturn in prospect as we move into 2012," he said.
Cathay enjoyed record profits in 2010 when the market rebounded from financial crisis but cargo demand has been falling since April 2011 as demand for Chinese goods slowed amid a global financial market turmoil.
Cargo load factor was down by 9.6 percentage points to 67.8 percent in December.
Analysts said Cathay had taken steps to mitigate the impact of a slowing global economy and weak cargo demand from China.
The company had cut 2012 estimated passenger and cargo capacity growth to 7 percent and 10 percent year-on-year, from a previous target of 13 percent and 17 percent, respectively, Daiwa Securities analyst Kelvin Lau said.
"The overall industry outlook is relatively bearish and there is no sign of rebound on the cargo side," he added.
"Cargo throughput is likely to continue to decline in the first half of 2012 and may rebound in the second half on low comparison basis as the global economy might not deteriorate further," Lau said.
However, its passenger traffic continued to grow last month, to 2.46 million passenger, up 7.9 percent, although passenger load factor eased 0.5 percentage points to 79.6 percent.
In 2011, it carried 27.6 million passengers, up 2.9 percent.
"The biggest area of concern was the continuing pressure on yield in the economy cabin, particularly on long-haul routes," Cathay's General Manager Revenue Management James Tong said.
"We'll be seeing high loads again over the upcoming Chinese New Year peak but yield will remain an area of concern." (Editing by Charlie Zhu and Helen Massy-Beresford)