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JAL says nine-month net profit slips, ups year forecast

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Japan Airlines said Monday net profit in the nine months to December fell to $1.52 billion, but it lifted its full-year profit forecast by more than 16 percent despite recent Dreamliner woes.

JAL, which re-listed its shares in Tokyo last year after a high-profile bankruptcy restructuring, credited its European and US business for the boost to the earnings estimate.

However, it warned that strained relations with China and a slow recovery in the global economy made its outlook less clear.

The carrier and rival All Nippon Airways (ANA) have been hit by the worldwide grounding of Boeing's Dreamliner after a number of incidents including a fire on a JAL plane in Boston and an emergency landing on an ANA flight in Japan.

The global no-fly order imposed by US regulators has seen Japan's two biggest carriers -- major customers of the aircraft, with more than 100 combined orders -- slash hundreds of flights, affecting tens of thousands of passengers.

The regulators have said they will not allow the 787 to fly again until they are sure the problems around the battery system are fixed.

On Monday, JAL said posted a 140.64 billion yen ($1.52 billion) net profit in in April-December, down 3.7 percent from a year earlier, but said it would see a profit in the year to March of 163 billion yen from an earlier 140 billion yen forecast.

Sales over the nine-month period were up 3.6 percent at 942.04 billion yen.

Earlier Monday, JAL said it has postponed the launch of its Tokyo-Helsinki route due to the Dreamliner problems.

"While there are concerns of the impact of the suspended use of the Boeing 787 aircraft since January 2013, business has been robust, especially on European, North American and Southeast Asian routes," the carrier said in a statement.

"Various measures including new products and services, which were steadily promoted, are also expected to uplift revenue."

On Monday, JAL said its international passenger segment sales rose 6.7 percent over the year earlier, partly due to adding routes and new services.

Domestic passenger revenue also rose 1.7 percent year on year in the nine-month period, reflecting a recovery following the March 11 quake-tsunami disaster of 2011, the carrier said.

Despite the results, JAL warned that the third quarter ended December "encountered risks of possible economic stagnation due to the economic slowdown in Europe, China, etc., deflation in Japan, (and) strained diplomatic relations due to territorial issues."

That meant its outlook would "remain opaque", JAL said.

Japanese airlines have been hit by a row between Tokyo and Beijing over sovereignty of a group of islands in the East China Sea, which triggered anti-Japan rallies across China and a consumer boycott of Japanese brands.

"Responding to the decline in demand on China routes owing to territorial issues, JAL swiftly adjusted down frequency of flights to minimise impact on revenue," it said.

JAL re-listed its shares in September, marking a spectacular turnaround three years after it went bankrupt with massive debts and saw its stock delisted from the Tokyo Stock Exchange, Japan's premier bourse.

The new listing followed a share offering that raised around $8.5 billion, the second biggest in the world in 2012 after Facebook's $16 billion offering.

The airline, which continued flying during its overhaul, received a huge government bailout and other concessions, drawing howls of protest from rivals although some share sales proceeds were earmarked to pay back the government.

JAL shares finished up 1.19 percent to 3,815 yen on Monday with the results published after the Tokyo market had closed.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130204/jal-says-nine-month-net-profit-slips-ups-year-forecast-0