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Malaysia Airlines narrowed 2018 loss amid headwinds

Malaysia Airlines reduced its pre-tax loss by 4% to MYR777 million ($185 million) in 2018 as it dealt with intense competition, pilot shortages and volatile fuel and currency movements.

The result was disclosed in financial data lodged with the Companies Commission of Malaysia in September, which also showed that revenue for the year ended 31 December amounted to MYR8.74 billion, broadly flat compared to the prior year.

The improvement in its pre-tax loss is consistent with its assertion in March that it ended 2018 "on a marginally lower loss compared to a year ago." At that time, it pointed to a challenging second half of the year, including fierce competition and overcapacity, pilot shortages and fuel costs as major items.

The carrier's loss after tax amounted to MYR792 million, 2.4% lower than the year before, the accounts show.

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In June, chief executive Izham Ismail warned that the carrier was unlikely to break even this year due to similar issues, and continuing overcapacity in the market that was driving down yields. He also noted that other external factors, including the ongoing trade war between the United States and China, were putting further pressure on the carrier.

The struggling carrier is owned by Malaysia's Khazanah Nasional sovereign wealth fund, which is said to be weighing up a new turnaround plan and had been due to make a decision on it during the third quarter. The company has yet to clarify its position, however.

Earlier in the year, Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad indicated that the government was considering its options for the airline, including potential further investment, a sale of even shutting it down.

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