Japan Airlines posts $2 bln loss

TOKYO: Japan Airlines Friday posted a massive 2 billion dollar loss for the nine months to December and apologised to shareholders and the public after being forced to file for bankruptcy last month.

The ailing flagship carrier said it made a net loss of 177.9 billion yen (2 billion dollars) in the period, the worst figure since its merger with Japan Air System (JAS) in 2002.

The carrier went bankrupt in January with 26 billion dollars of debt in one of Japan's biggest ever corporate failures, but continued flying and announced an overhaul involving more than 15,000 job cuts.

In a brief statement Friday in a sparse two-page report, JAL said sorry for its current situation but it did not offer an outlook, saying its rehabilitation plan was yet to be fully drafted.

"We deeply apologise for significant troubles that we caused to many people, including shareholders and creditors," it said.

The firm booked an operating loss of 120.8 billion yen on sales revenue of 1.14 trillion yen, down about 27 percent from the same period in 2008, JAL executive officer Norikazu Saito told reporters.

Last month the government announced a 3.3-billion-dollar injection of public funds and fresh emergency loans of 6.6 billion dollars for the carrier.

But JAL may be able to limit the cash injection as it "was able to avoid the worst-case scenario", said Akitoshi Nakamura of the Enterprise Turnaround Initiative Corp, which is leading JAL's rehabilitation process.

A draft of the restructuring plan will be submitted to court for approval in the summer, he said.

The airline's shares were delisted from the Tokyo Stock Exchange on February 19, with its price down to one yen, ending its almost half century of listing on the bourse.

JAL this month rejected an offer to team up with the SkyTeam alliance, which includes US carrier Delta Airlines, and said it would expand its tie-up with American Airlines and its Oneworld partners.

The airline's new chairman Kazuo Inamori said last Saturday the embattled carrier would speed up efforts to improve its bottom line through restructuring, including new early retirement programmes.

"We're making a very huge loss every day and must stop the bleeding by reducing expenses," he was quoted as saying by local media.

JAL is stepping up efforts to retain customers as the number of passengers on both international and domestic flights fell more than 10 percent in the April-December period year-on-year.

The company this month announced a "birthday fare" promotion offering discounts to customers on domestic routes flying within a week before or after their birthdays.

JAL also said it would establish a committee to investigate past business practices to determine if there were any accounting problems.

Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama's Democrats this month announced a taskforce to study whether the carrier exploited cozy ties with the transport ministry or the former conservative government.

The body will also examine whether JAL cooked its books to hide the full extent of its financial difficulties, and set up hotlines for potential whistle-blowers, party member Tsutomu Okubo's office said.

The Democrats, whose landslide victory in elections last August ended more than a half century of almost unbroken conservative rule, have pledged to shift the focus of government away from big business to consumers.

The government was initially reluctant to bail out JAL but finally decided it was too big to fail, although it warned it would not write a blank cheque.