Cathay Pacific lowers full-year profit expectations as Hong Kong protests bite
September passenger numbers fall 7.1%
Expects second-half profit to be lower than first half
Inbound demand shortfall to persist for rest of 2019 - executive
Adds comment from executive, analyst consensus estimate
SINGAPORE, Oct 18 (Reuters) - Hong Kong's Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd 0293.HK on Friday lowered its expectations for full-year profit due to "incredibly challenging" conditions in its home market racked by anti-government protests that it expected to persist for the rest of 2019.
The airline reported a 7.1% drop in passenger numbers for the month of September as travellers avoided Hong Kong due to widespread and sometimes violent protests, and said its second-half financial results were likely to be below the first half.
Cathay in August reported a HK$1.347 billion ($171.75 million) first-half profit. At that time, it said second-half profit was likely to be higher than the first-half, as is typically the case for the airline, based on seasonality.
The consensus estimate before Friday's update was for the airline to report a full-year profit of HK$3.2 billion, according to 11 analysts polled by Refinitiv.
"We continue to see a significant shortfall in inbound bookings for the remainder of 2019 as compared to the same snapshot last year," Cathay Chief Customer and Commercial Officer Ronald Lam said in a statement on Friday.
Inbound traffic to Hong Kong was down 38% in September, unchanged from August, with demand from the mainland Chinese market hit especially hard, the airline said.
The 7.1% fall in passenger numbers in September was better than the 11.3% drop in August, but Cathay said an increasing reliance on transit passengers had affected its yields - a measure of the average fare paid per kilometre per passenger.
Cathay last month said it would cut capacity for the upcoming winter season.
($1 = 7.8427 Hong Kong dollars)
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(Reporting by Jamie Freed; Editing by Christian Schmollinger and Christopher Cushing)
((Jamie.Freed@thomsonreuters.com; +65 6318 4789;))
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