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

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.


NMC Health removes CEO amid investigation of UAE firm’s finances

Updated 27 February 2020

NMC Health removes CEO amid investigation of UAE firm’s finances

  • Chief Executive Prasanth Manghat was dismissed with immediate effect
  • Chief Operating Officer Michael Davis was appointed as interim CEO

NMC Health has removed Chief Executive Prasanth Manghat with immediate effect and granted its finance chief extended sick leave, as more details emerge from an investigation into the UAE health care firm’s finances.
Abu-Dhabi based NMC said after Wednesday’s market close that it had appointed Chief Operating Officer Michael Davis as interim CEO to succeed Manghat and said Chief Financial Officer Prashanth Shenoy had been placed on longer leave.
Manghat had been with NMC for about 10 years in various roles, including deputy CEO and CFO, and had seen the company through its 2012 listing on the London Stock Exchange.
The moves are the latest blow for the firm whose shares have lost about two thirds of their value since US-based short-seller Muddy Waters late last year questioned its financial statements.
NMC had said at the time that the report was “false and misleading,” but had opened its own investigation into company finances. The review is being led by Louis Freeh, who was director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the United States from 1993 to mid-2001.
NMC on Wednesday said the investigation committee had identified supply chain financing arrangements that were entered into by the company and “which are understood to have been used” by entities controlled by founder BR Shetty and former vice-chair Khaleefa Butti Omair Yousif Ahmed Al Muhairi.
Reuters was unable to reach Manghat, Shetty and Muhairi for comment outside business hours on NMC’s latest statement.
The company, which operates clinics and hospitals, specialized maternity and fertility clinics, and long-term care homes in 19 countries, said the committee was reviewing a drawdown of its facilities that had not been disclosed or approved by the board.
Its shares closed 6.6% higher before Wednesday’s statement.
NMC also said it had suspended a member of its treasury team over possible discrepancies in its bank statements and ledger entries, and said it would be unable to publish its annual results till at least the end of April.
Indian billionaire Shetty resigned as NMC’s co-chairman this month, after British regulators said they were looking into NMC following a disclosure that he had misstated the size of his stake.
Shetty had said this month that his NMC shareholdings were under a legal review looking into a large portion of his shares signed to two of NMC’s top investors in 2017, while some of his other stock had been pledged as security against loans.