SpiceJet reports sharp increase in full-year net losses

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India's SpiceJet has reported that its net losses for the year ended 31 March grew by 165% to 3.53 billion Indian rupees ($73.4 million), although an improved performance in the last quarter gives it hope for a better showing in the coming months.

The carrier says in a statement that net losses were 2.2 billion rupees higher than the 1.33 billion rupees it reported 12 months ago. Total income was 27% higher at 18.13 billion rupees, but fuel costs rose by 34% to 9.45 billion rupees and the airline also booked 231 million rupees in foreign exchange losses.

SpiceJet, which received an $80 million investment from US billionaire Wilbur Ross's private equity firm in 2008, reported a much stronger fourth quarter, saying that it bucked the overall trend in India and registered stronger demand.

Net losses for the three months ending 31 March were 78.29 million rupees, down sharply from the 1.24 billion rupees in net losses a year before. Total income was virtually flat at 4.36 billion rupees, but falling oil prices helped to slash its fuel bill by 775 million rupees to 1.54 billion rupees.

"While the overall aviation demand in India dropped 13% in this quarter, SpiceJet experienced an increase in demand of 10.3%. SpiceJet's market share for the quarter was 12%. This growth continues to reinforce the success of SpiceJet's business model of providing affordable and high quality air travel. On the unit cost front, our cost was 4% lower versus last year, excluding the volatility in fuel prices and currency," says SpiceJet chief executive officer Sanjay Aggarwal.

The airline has a fleet of 19 Boeing 737-800/900ER aircraft and offers 125 flights to 18 Indian cities daily. It expects to take delivery of another nine 737s from now to 2012, and hopes to launch international services in May 2010 to Southeast Asia, South Asia and the Gulf states.

"Our financial performance continues to get healthier. Key drivers remain better cost management and higher aircraft utilisation. SpiceJet operates one of the youngest fleet in the industry (average aircraft age of two years) and that helps keep the technical reliability high and operating costs low," adds Aggarwal.