By B.K. SIDHU firstname.lastname@example.org
PETALING JAYA: Investors and analysts are basically growing tired, having waited for nearly three months now for the new team at Malaysia Airlines (MAS) to announce some definitive execution plans to turn the ailing airline around.
In a report, Maybank Investment Bank said: “The first impression we get is that the new management is busy learning the ropes and dealing with internal matters first before unveiling their grand plan.''
The house expects MAS to report a net loss of RM242mil for the third quarter. It said the fourth quarter, which is traditionally a good period for airlines, would be equally challenging for the national carrier. “It has been more than three months since the announcement of the MAS-AirAsia tie-up. Unfortunately, not much progress has been made in terms of operational matters.''
The research house said: “We have lowered our earnings forecast to adjust for higher fuel prices, lower yields and lower capacity deployment. We are optimistic on the tie-up as it brings forth exciting opportunities with synergy potential in the billions, but execution plans are iffy and very slow.''
“Against this backdrop, we have lowered our earnings forecast and downgraded MAS to a “hold” (from “buy”) with a target price of RM1.55 per share (from RM2.70) pegged to 5.6 times 2012-adjusted enterprise value/earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation on par with global peers,'' it said.
It estimates that the third-quarter core net loss to be RM242mil after adjusting for FRS139 derivative mark-to-market, which is non-cash. The target is largely based on a 45% year-on-year rise in fuel price.
“We forecast the third quarter and the early part of 2012 to be loss-making after imputing for a higher jet fuel price of US$120 per barrel (from US$110 per barrel) and softer yield environment. MAS' cost structure is not nimble enough to deal with the current market environment. It should be in better shape in 2H12 when it removes most of its old aircraft from the fleet, ” according to the report.
It added that both airlines can save huge sums (RM200mil-RM300mil per year each) by eliminating irrational competition and reducing wastages. There is also potential yield enhancement stemming from better market supply demand relationship.
MAS has many routes in its network that are thin and have no potential to make profits (irregular non-daily flights, using big aircraft for small routes). Most of these routes were legacy in nature and served a different purpose in the yesteryears. Since the core focus was to revert back to profitability, MAS must be decisive and cull these routes immediately, the report said.
The report suggested that there were many areas where MAS and AirAsia could work to save cost.
“We believe both airlines should be smart and combine powers against the common enemy. For example, AirAsia X should stop its flights to Europe (London, Paris) and let MAS fight the battle alone against the Middle Eastern airlines (Emirates, Etihad, Qatar, Gulf) on these routes. Similarly, MAS should also get out from routes where there is no business travel or low yielding routes,'' it said.