UPDATE 2-MakeMyTrip sees subdued growth in air ticketing business

Thu May 24, 2012 12:08pm EDT

* Q4 adj EPS $0.08 vs est $0.06

* Sees hotels & packages business grow faster than air ticketing

* Sees strong growth if India allows foreign investment in aviation

* Shares down as much as 8 pct

May 24 (Reuters) - MakeMyTrip, the largest online travel booking company in India, expects its air ticketing business to grow at a slower pace unless the Indian government approves foreign investment in the aviation industry and helps boost capacity.

Shares of the company fell as much as 8 percent touching a lifetime low of $15.49 on Thursday on the Nasdaq. They have lost more than 30 percent of their value this year.

High fuel charges, a cutback in capacity by airlines, rising air ticket prices and a slowing economy have hurt air travel demand in India.

MakeMyTrip said it expects a sustained period of increased airfare.

The company, which had benefited from India's boom in air travel and a shift to online ticket booking, said it expects its hotels and packages business to grow faster than air ticketing for the coming quarters.

"Some of the carriers are looking for increased funding from domestic and international channels to beef up their balance sheets but it is hard to predict when that will happen," a company executive said on a conference call with analysts.

"That could help more capacity coming online and thereby help fares come down."

Indian airlines, including embattled Kingfisher Airlines , have long lobbied for allowing foreign airlines into the domestic market.

Under the current rules, foreign airlines are barred from buying stakes in domestic carriers, although foreign investors are allowed to hold a cumulative 49 percent.

MakeMyTrip, which competes with Yatra.com and Cleartrip.com, forecast revenue, less service costs, of $103 million to $106 million for fiscal 2013, missing analysts' estimates of about $110 million.

For the fourth quarter, air ticketing revenue grew by more than half to $20.9 million, while revenue from its hotels & packages business increased 48 percent to $25 million. Overall revenue rose 50 percent to $47 million.

Net income jumped to $6.2 million, or 16 cents per share, from $3.7 million, or 10 cents a share, a year earlier.

Excluding items, the company earned 8 cents a share. Analysts on average were expecting fourth-quarter earnings of 6 cents a share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Revenue, less service costs, grew about 29 percent to $22.1 million, beating the average Street estimate of $20.8 million.

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