(adds details on load factors, cash from operations and
regions, plus context)
KUALA LUMPUR May 20 Budget airline AirAsia Bhd
said first-quarter profit rose by 33 percent due to
improved passenger numbers, foreign exchange gains and deferred
Net profit for the three months ended March 31 climbed to
139.7 million ringgit ($43.48 million), from 104.8 million
ringgit for the same period last year. Most analysts covering
AirAsia do not provide forecasts for quarterly earnings.
The firm, run by entrepreneur Tony Fernandes, is Asia's
biggest budget airline by passenger numbers.
Its seat-load factor - measuring occupancy - improved two
percentage points to 81 percent in the first quarter while
ancillary income per passenger - income other than from ticket
sales such as luggage fees and food - rose by 7 percent.
However, cash from operations declined to 78.8 million
ringgit from 240.3 million ringgit last year as the company
spent more money investing than it made from operations.
The airline said bookings from Thailand may decline in the
second quarter due to the country's political unrest.
It saw profits slide 55 percent in the last financial year,
hit by volatile currency moves and gruelling price competition
in its home market from Malindo, an affiliate of Indonesia's
Lion Air and Malaysian Airline System.
Its shares have lost about 28 percent over the past 52 weeks
versus a 6 percent rise in the benchmark Malaysian index
Last week, Malaysian Airlines reported its worst quarterly
loss in over two years on lower passenger traffic and cancelled
bookings after flight MH370 disappeared in March.
After years of explosive growth, the region's budget
carriers are now facing worries about overcapacity.
Fernandes said last quarter that his carrier would defer
seven aircraft deliveries this year and another 12 in 2015.
AirAsia has a fleet of about 140 A320 planes, plus 335 on order.
AirAsia's low-cost Indian joint venture airline won an
operating permit this month, paving the way for the carrier to
launch services although it has not yet said when they will
begin. But the Indian market is a tough one with most carriers
failing to make a profit due to high fuel prices, taxes and
($1 = 3.2130 Malaysian Ringgit)
(Reporting by Al-Zaquan Amer Hamzah, Yantoultra Ngui and
Anshuman Daga; Editing by Edwina Gibbs and Pravin Char)