Qantas soars to record profit, unveils buyback amid rosy outlook

The ‘Flying Kangaroo’, which controls nearly two-thirds of Australia’s domestic market, has pushed average domestic ticket prices to their highest levels in almost a decade while trimming capacity. (Reuters)
Updated 22 February 2018
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Qantas soars to record profit, unveils buyback amid rosy outlook

SYDNEY: Australia’s Qantas Airways said half-year profit jumped to a record on cost cuts and hikes in domestic fares — which combined with a share buyback sent its stock bounding higher.
The results are the latest in a slew of robust earnings for the aviation sector and Qantas CEO Alan Joyce was upbeat about future earnings prospects, noting that Australia’s all-important resources sector was growing for the first time in three years.
“We’ve a lot of work to do to maintain it, but if we deliver on that work I have no doubt that the company can keep on maintaining this kind of performance,” he told a news conference.
It also outlined plans for its own pilot academy to address a severe pilot shortage globally. The academy will start next year and aims to train 500 pilots a year when fully established.
The “Flying Kangaroo”, which controls nearly two-thirds of Australia’s domestic market, has pushed average domestic ticket prices to their highest levels in almost a decade while trimming capacity.
At the same time, demand has gathered pace. In addition to the pick-up in the resources sector, Joyce said growth in the financial services, construction and infrastructure sectors were driving business travel demand. Leisure demand was also strong, with international tourist numbers at record highs.
Underlying profit before tax, its most closely watched measure, surged 15 percent to A$976 million ($760 million) for the six months ending December 31, its best result for a first-half and around 3 percent higher than the top of its own guidance. Domestic revenue jumped by a fifth.
Investors also cheered a A$378 million buyback, sending its shares up as much as 10 percent, their biggest daily gain in three years. They last traded 6 percent higher.
“Capacity and capital discipline at a time where demand growth remains robust is driving the stock and its outlook,” said Sondal Bensan, an analyst at Qantas’ biggest shareholder, BT Investment Management wrote in an email.
” next leg will be in the international business that has been held back the past two years,” he said.
Other airlines and aviation firms are also basking in better times for the industry.
Also reporting on Thursday, Air New Zealand said it was destined for its second-highest annual profit ever on the back of a tourism boom.
Flight Center Travel Group, Australia’s biggest listed travel agency, sent its shares to a record high after beating half-year profit expectations and lifting its guidance. Its online rival Webjet saw it stock rocket 15 percent higher as revenue more than tripled.
Last week Singapore Airlines said it had lifted its quarterly profit by almost two-thirds as passenger numbers and cargo revenues rose.
Qantas also confirmed the purchase of 18 long-range Airbus A331LRneo aircraft for budget arm Jetstar.


Maalem Financing raises $26m in debut sukuk

Updated 17 October 2018
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Maalem Financing raises $26m in debut sukuk

  • The sukuk from Maalem, a shariah-compliant commercial and consumer financing firm, is a small but novel deal
  • The three-year unsubordinated deal was sold through a private placement and Maalem could tap the market again

LONDON: Saudi Arabia’s Maalem Financing has raised SR100 million ($26.6 million) from a debut sale of Islamic bonds, or sukuk, as the firm seeks to develop a crowdfunding product and expand its operations, a senior executive said on Tuesday.
The sukuk from Maalem, a shariah-compliant commercial and consumer financing firm, is a small but novel deal in a market that is dominated by issuance from sovereign institutions and Islamic banks.
The three-year unsubordinated deal was sold through a private placement and Maalem could tap the market again as early as January next year, said John Sandwick, a member of Maalem’s board of directors.
“The program is for SR500 million and with 3.6 times oversubscription, there seems to be a lot of demand,” he said.
Additional sales of sukuk aimed to raise between SR100 million and SR200 million, depending on market conditions, he said, adding that Maalem may consider a dollar-denominated sukuk issuance at a later stage.
The debut transaction used a structure known as murabaha, a cost-plus-profit arrangement commonly used in Saudi Arabia. The firm hoped to use an asset-backed structure for future deals, Sandwick said.
Established in 2009, Maalem received regulatory approval to operate as a non-real estate finance company in 2016 and increased its capital in 2017 to SR150 million.
The company plans to open several regional offices by the end of 2018 and is awaiting regulatory approval for a crowdfunding license, Sandwick said.
Crowdfunding enables startup firms to collect small sums of money from many individuals as an alternative to bank loans.
Albilad Capital, the investment banking unit of Bank Albilad, served as sole lead manager and arranger of the sukuk.