Singapore Airlines sinks to record quarterly loss on pandemic, impairments

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Singapore Airlines Ltd SIAL.SI reported on Friday a record S$2.34 billion ($1.74 billion) net loss for the July-September quarter, hit by a plunge in passenger numbers due to the COVID-19 pandemic and impairments charges on older aircraft.

FILE PHOTO: A Singapore Airlines plane sits on the tarmac at Singapore's Changi Airport March 11, 2020. REUTERS/Edgar Su

The loss compared with a S$94.5 million profit in the same period last year. Revenue tumbled 81% to S$783.8 million.

The loss included an impairment charge of S$1.3 billion related to the withdrawal of 26 older aircraft, including seven Airbus SE AIR.PA A380 superjumbos.

The airline said the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic was likely to remain patchy, but that it expected a progressive recovery in cargo demand.

Singapore Airlines, which lacks a domestic market to cushion it against coronavirus border closures, reported a 98.6% fall in passenger numbers in September, and a 42.3% drop in the amount of cargo carried. It was running just 11% of normal passenger capacity that month.

The airline has grounded much of its fleet and cut 4,300 jobs, or around 20% of its staff, as it grapples with the biggest crisis in its history.

CIMB analyst Raymond Yap told clients on Oct. 26 that he expected the airline to lose money for the next three financial years, with the International Air Transport Association forecasting it will take until 2024 for passenger demand to recover to 2019 levels.

Singapore Airlines had flagged in July the potential for impairments as it was reviewing its A380 fleet. One of its A380s has recently been serving as a restaurant on the ground at Singapore’s main airport, as part of a novel way to connect with loyal customers that miss flying.

To help survive the pandemic, the airline said in March it would raise S$5.3 billion in equity and up to S$9.7 billion in convertible bonds in a deal backed by its majority shareholder, state fund Temasek Holdings.

The airline said in mid-October it had used S$6.2 billion of the funds to date to repay a bridging loan, refund tickets, service debt, pay for aircraft and fund operating expenses.

It still has S$1.9 billion of credit lines and up to S$6.2 billion of convertible bonds available, it said at that time.

The company is exploring additional ways of boosting liquidity.

“Positive discussions have taken place on aircraft sale-and-leaseback transactions and are well advanced, and opportunities in the debt capital markets are being evaluated,” it said.

Its shares have fallen about 45% this year, in line with the decline at Hong Kong-based rival Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd 0293.HK, which also lacks a domestic market.

Singapore Airlines shares closed 0.3% higher on Friday, before the results were announced.

The airline’s management team will hold a briefing for analysts and media on Monday.

Reporting by Aradhana Aravindan in Singapore; Additional reporting by Jamie Freed in Sydney; Editing by Jane Merriman and Mark Potter