SINGAPORE: Singapore's national airline reported yesterday its worst annual net loss of $3.2 billion in the aftermath of the "toughest year in its history" due to the coronavirus pandemic. The airline industry has been hammered hard by recurring waves of infections worldwide which have grounded air travel as governments restrict movement to halt the surges.

Singapore Airlines (SIA) said late Wednesday that it suffered a net loss of Sg$4.3 billion ($3.2 billion) for the financial year ended March 31, widening the previous year's Sg$212 million net loss. Revenue plunged over 76 percent to Sg$3.8 billion from nearly Sg$16 billion, the carrier said in a filing with the Singapore Exchange, describing the past 12 months as the "toughest year in its history".

Waves of infections and the emergence of more virulent strains of the virus caused passenger traffic to tumble almost 98 percent, it added. Cargo revenues cushioned the decimation of the passenger business, the carrier said, with vaccine transportation seen as a major boost with the firm well positioned to extend its Asia Pacific jab shipments.

Even though an annual loss was expected, aviation analyst Shukor Yusof of Endau Analytics labelled the results "ghastly". "They've just registered their biggest loss in their history," he said. Yusof added that the firm was an industry barometer, noting that "these results suggest we could see other less capable carriers collapse." The global aviation industry suffered an estimated net loss of $126.4 billion last year due to the pandemic, industry body International Air Transport Association (IATA) said. It expects the losses to narrow to $47.7 billion this year, but analysts say the resurgence of the virus in India and other parts of the world means the industry is in for more turbulence.

SIA said despite the resurgence of infections, growing vaccine numbers in key markets "provides hope for further recovery" in the second half of this year.

The carrier has already raised a total Sg$15.4 billion in fresh capital and is seeking to raise a further Sg$6.2 billion to strengthen its financial position, with the backing of its majority shareholder, Singapore state investment fund Temasek. The airline retains access to another Sg$2.1 billion of committed credit lines. But analyst Shukor said: "I'm not as optimistic as management of a recovery in the second half of 2021. It will likely get worse before it gets better." - AFP