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Friday, Mar 31, 2023

Cathay Pacific sees "bright light at the end of the tunnel”

Cathay Pacific sees "bright light at the end of the tunnel”

Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. said its available liquidity rose about 7 percent in the four months through October to HK$28.6 billion (US$3.7 billion) as international travel started returning to Hong Kong.
The airline has secured funding from a range of capital markets and is focusing on preserving cash and optimizing costs, it said in a presentation to analysts Friday, adding that it has been generating cash at an operating level since May. Cathay has said it expects that trend to continue through the second half.

“We are seeing a bright light at the end of the tunnel,” Chief Customer and Commercial Officer Ronald Lam said. “There will be a lot of headwinds, all the economic indicators will be working against many companies including ours, but we are very confident about the future for the next few years.”

Lam is due to become Cathay’s chief executive officer in January, taking over from Augustus Tang.

Cathay said it flew 21 percent of pre-pandemic capacity in October and 63 percent for cargo, after the lifting of Hong Kong quarantine requirements at the end of September “improved travel sentiment significantly.”

The carrier still had 59 aircraft parked away last month, down from 69 in June. It resumed flying to 51 destinations, up from 29 at the start of the year.

HK Express was flying to 12 destinations as of Oct. 31, up from just four in early 2022. Lam said the low-cost unit should reach pre-Covid capacity by March, with its remaining aircraft in storage returned this month. HK Express has a fleet of 26 planes, from a total of 230 for the wider Cathay group.

Cathay has said the group is on track to hit 70 percent of pre-pandemic levels by end-2023, with a full recovery in 2024.

Still, Hong Kong isn’t out of the woods in its Covid battle, with daily infection numbers rising above 9,000 Thursday. The government said social-distancing measures initially set to expire on Nov. 30 will be kept in place until Dec. 14, and warned that the epidemic situation in the city has become volatile.

Cathay hasn’t yet repaid the government for its part in a HK$39 billion recapitalization in 2020, when the airline was in danger of collapse. “The timing for that is someway off,” Chris Buckley, general manager of finance and performance, said at Friday’s briefing.

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