Emirates ­reverses profit drop with ­savings

Emirates unveiled a special tribute to the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, founding father of the United Arab Emirates, with bespoke livery for its 100th Airbus A380. (Courtesy Emirates)
Updated 09 November 2017
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Emirates ­reverses profit drop with ­savings

LONDON: Emirates airline reversed a sharp decline in its financial performance in 2016, unveiling an 111 percent profits jump in the first half of 2017 to $452 million, off the back of a softer dollar and a cost-cutting drive that saw the parent company axe 3,000 jobs.
But there were still severe headwinds, indicated Emirates chairman Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al-Maktoum — margins continued to face strong downward pressure from increased competition and rising oil prices, as well as “weak economic and uncertain political realities in many parts of the world.”
In its 2016/17 financial year, Emirates — the biggest airline in the Middle East — reported its first full-year profit decline for five years as subdued travel demand saw earnings plunge 82 percent. An inflated US currency, political and security issues, as well as airline overcapacity, were cited as factors behind the grim trading picture last year.
But in the first six months of 2017/18 to end-September, Emirates reported that its average passenger seat factor — a key metric for airlines which measures how many seats are filled on flights — rose to 77.2 percent, compared with last year’s 75.3 percent. The airline carried 29.2 million passengers between April 1 and Sept. 30, 2017, up 4 percent from the same period last year.
The airline said: “The easing of the strong US dollar against other major currencies helped our profitability. We are also seeing the benefit from various initiatives across the company to enhance our capability and efficiency with new technologies and new ways of working.”
In the past six months, employee numbers at Emirates Group — which includes its air freight and ground handling operations — reduced by 3 percent compared to March 31 2017, from an overall staff count of 105,746 to 102,669.
Airline employee numbers were cut from 64,768 to 63,039.
“This was largely a result of natural attrition together with a slower pace of recruitment, as various parts of the business adopted new technologies, streamlined business processes and re-allocated resources,” said Emirates.
Airline revenue of $12.1 billion was up 6 percent compared with $11.4 billion reported during the same period last year.
Emirates said it continued to invest in the most advanced wide-body aircraft to improve overall efficiency and provide better customer experience. During the first half, Emirates received 10 wide-body aircraft — four Airbus A380s, and six Boeing 777s, with nine more new aircraft scheduled to be delivered before the end of the financial year. It also retired five older aircraft from its fleet with further four to be returned by March 31, 2018.
Emirates launched two new passenger services to Zagreb (Croatia) and Phnom Penh (Cambodia).
As of Sept. 30, Emirates’ global network spanned 156 destinations in 84 countries. Its fleet stood at 264 aircraft including freighters.
In July, the airline announced a partnership with Flydubai, leveraging both airlines’ complementary networks to open new city-pair routings for customers, and optimize operations at Dubai International Airport. Emirates also announced it would extend its successful partnership with Qantas for a further five years that will offer travelers more flight choices to and from Australia and New Zealand.
Overall profit for dnata, Emirates’ airport handling and airlines services division, was up by 20 percent to $80 million. Across its operations, the number of aircraft handled by dnata increased by 11 percent to 330,317, and it handled 1.5 million tons of cargo, up 25 percent.
This reflected new customer contracts won across the network, and expansion to new locations such as Rio de Janeiro and Amsterdam (ground handling) as well as the overall upturn in global cargo volumes.


Twitter suspended 58 million accounts in 2017 fourth quarter

Updated 18 July 2018
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Twitter suspended 58 million accounts in 2017 fourth quarter

  • Twitter executives say efforts to clean up the platform are a priority
  • Company struggling with user growth compared to rivals like Instagram and Facebook

NEW YORK: Twitter suspended at least 58 million user accounts in the final three months of 2017, according to data obtained by The Associated Press. The figure highlights the company’s newly aggressive stance against malicious or suspicious accounts in the wake of Russian disinformation efforts during the 2016 US presidential campaign.
Last week, Twitter confirmed a Washington Post report that it had suspended 70 million accounts in May and June. The cavalcade of suspensions has raised questions as to whether the crackdown could affect Twitter’s user growth and whether the company should have warned investors earlier. The company has been struggling with user growth compared to rivals like Instagram and Facebook.
The number of suspended accounts originated with Twitter’s “firehose,” a data stream it makes available to academics, companies and others willing to pay for it.
The new figure sheds light on Twitter’s attempt to improve “information quality” on its service, its term for countering fake accounts, bots, disinformation and other malicious occurrences. Such activity was rampant on Twitter and other social-media networks during the 2016 campaign, much of it originating with the Internet Research Agency, a since-shuttered Russian “troll farm” implicated in election-disruption efforts by the US special counsel and congressional investigations.
Suspensions surged over the fourth quarter. Twitter suspended roughly 15 million accounts last October. That number jumped by two-thirds to more than 25 million in December.
Twitter declined to comment on the data. But its executives have said that efforts to clean up the platform are a priority, while acknowledging that its crackdown has affected and may continue to affect user numbers.
Twitter said in April it had 336 million monthly active users, which it defines as accounts that have logged in at least once during the previous 30 days. The suspended accounts do not appear to have made a large dent in this number, which was up 3 percent from a year earlier. Twitter maintains that most of the suspended accounts had been dormant for at least a month, and thus weren’t included in its active user numbers.
Michael Pachter, a stock analyst with Wedbush Securities, said he thinks the purge late last year may have been part of an initial sweep of inactive accounts that had little effect on activity or advertising revenue. But he said he expected advertising revenue to fall 1 to 2 percent due to the more recent purge last week, when Twitter said it was removing frozen accounts from follower counts.
He expects the company to be upfront about the impact when it announces quarterly earnings on July 27, and said the cleanup is good for users and advertisers. “They’re certainly doing the right thing,” he said.
Scott Kessler, an analyst with CFRA who has a “sell” rating on Twitter stock, said multiple reports and vague clarifications by executives are creating uncertainty about what Twitter’s numbers really mean.
The purge activity “adds a level of uncertainty,” he said. “As an analyst, I want a more genuine view of the user base.”
Chief Financial Officer Ned Segal said in February that some of the company’s “information quality efforts” that include removing accounts could affect monthly user figures. Segal offered no specifics.
Six months later, in late June, Twitter disclosed that its systems found nearly 10 million “potentially spammy or automated accounts per week” in the month of May, and 6.4 million per week in December 2017. That’s up from 3.2 million per week in September. The company didn’t say how many of these identified accounts were actually suspended.
Following the Post report, which caused Twitter’s stock to drop sharply, Segal took to Twitter to reassure investors that this number didn’t count in the company’s user metrics. “If we removed 70M accounts from our reported metrics, you would hear directly from us,” he tweeted last Monday .
Shares recovered somewhat after that tweet. The stock has largely been on an upswing lately, and more than doubled its value in the past year.
Twitter is taking other steps besides account deletions to combat misuse of its service, working to rein in hate and abuse even as it tries to stay true to its roots as a bastion of free expression. Last fall, it vowed to crack down on hate speech and sexual harassment and CEO Jack Dorsey echoed the concerns of critics who said the company hasn’t done enough to curb such abuse.