THAI paints a brighter picture

THAI paints a brighter picture

Investors believe THAI will get back on track.

AN investment group from Finland believes THAI will get back on-track, but it will require restructuring and support from the Finance Ministry; its major shareholder.

Finland's PYN Fund Management founder and group leader, Petri Deryng, explained his confidence in Thai Airways International, at the close of a visit to the national airline, last week.

He said the fact that the Thai government was the major shareholder would help the airline to weather the storm and rebuilt confidence.

The loss caused by the airport shutdown, last year, was unavoidable, he said, but the company would overcome its difficulties.

Another strong factor was Thailand's potential as a tourist destination and the airline's role in drawing tourists to the country. About half of all genuine tourists visiting Thailand travel on THAI flights.

"Of course, right now a Bt70 billion company appears to be valued at Bt12 billion.  Ironically, this makes it a very attractive investment because of its value and an ability to improve," he said.

THAI vice president, investor relations department, Raj Tanta-Nanta, admitted that there was a short term liquidity problem.

"We braced for a very bad outcome after the closure of the airports. But figures for Q1 and the outlook for Q2 improved. We may be able to move the full recovery time-frame forward by four months."

The airline's average cabin factor is in the range of 60 to mid-70%. Intercontinental routes have improved from 63.4% in December to 75% in January. Advance bookings show a cabin factor of 75% is achievable.

Regional routes, Middle East and Indian- subcontinent routes, are improving and the airline has increased flights to some cities in South Asia and the Middle East.

Chinese and Korean traffic appears to be making a comeback, too, but demand in the Japanese market remains soft.

"I'm not trying to convince you that we will make profit in 2009. What we are looking at is, either a breakeven year, or one slightly below. Hopefully, by 2010 we will get back to normal and be back in black," said Mr Raj.

Moving all operations to Suvarnabhumi Airport, will save the airline Bt700 million a year, offer better connectivity and strengthen the regional hub, he added.

As for its core product, Mr Raj insisted aircraft due for delivery will join the fleet without any delays.

"THAI needs to compete with other airlines. With better equipment we can increase yield reduce maintenance costs and burn less fuel," he said.