Cathay Pacific profits nosedive as premium demand falls away

The Hong Kong airline Cathay Pacific Airways’ first-half net profit tumbled 82 per cent amid slower Chinese economic growth and falling consumer demand for premium class seats on long-haul routes, sending its shares down almost 8 per cent.

Net profit for the six months ended June 30 fell to HK$353 million (Dh167.1m) from HK$1.97 billion in the same period last year, Cathay said in a filing to the Hong Kong bourse on Wednesday.

The carrier said a slowdown in mainland China and “economic fragility” elsewhere had curbed corporate travel, hitting sales of lucrative premium class seats.

“The operating environment in the first half of 2016 was affected by economic fragility and intense competition,” the firm’s chairman John Slosar said in the filing.

In a bid to rein in costs, Cathay has stopped hiring and replacing non-critical staff and is “restricting non-essential discretionary spending”, the company said, adding the same headwinds would remain in the second half of the year.

“The overall business outlook therefore remains challenging,” said Mr Slosar.

The broker BOCOM International said in a June report Cathay was facing challenges from delivery delays, forex losses from hedging, a rise in crude oil prices and increased airport fees.

Cathay saw profit surge by more than 90 per cent last year as record low crude oil prices helped to reduce fuel costs and a higher contribution from its affiliate Air China boosted income.

Its shares, in intra-day trade on Wednesday, suffered their biggest one-day percentage drop since August of last year.

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