Malaysia Airlines (MAS) has been forced to write down the value of its Airbus A330-200 freighters, blaming the airframer's recent decision to launch a passenger-to-freighter conversion programme for the type.

The carrier's MASkargo division will take delivery of the last of four new-build freighters this year, dating from a 2010 order. It also operates a pair of Boeing 747-400 Freighters.

However, in its full-year results for 2011, MAS booked an impairment charge of M$314 million ($104.8 million) against the value of the aircraft, citing losses in the cargo operation and the conversion programme which it said will "depress the value of new freighters".

Revenue at MASkargo fell by 14% in 2011, leading to a pre-tax loss of M$19 million, compared with a M$141 million profit in 2010.

MAS also plans to significantly reduce the size of its fleet by 2014, taking it from the current figure of 91 aircraft down to 80.

This will involve the return of some 58 older airframes to lessors, with the majority of these leaving MAS's fleet in 2012, it said.

Fleet reductions will focus on the "older uneconomical 18- to 19-year-old aircraft", it said. According to Flightglobal's Ascend Online database, the bulk of these are 737-400s, with it operating 33 of the narrowbodies built prior to 1995. Just three of its 36 737-400s were manufactured after this date.

Depending on when the older types are phased out, it could leave the carrier with as few as 33 of its current fleet this year.

Total cost of the retirements will be M$1.03 billion, with a charge of M$602 million booked in 2011's accounts. A further write-down on the value of aircraft spares cost it an additional M$179 million.

Meanwhile in 2012 MAS will receive 23 new aircraft, it said. According to Ascend this includes two A330Fs, eight 737-800s, three ATR 72-500s, four A330-300s and five A380s, with one as-yet unknown, from a total backlog of 60 at the start of 2012.

By 2014 the average age of its fleet will have been cut to 7.7 years, it said.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news