Budget African airline Fastjet fell further into the red last year with an operating loss of $41.2 million.

The carrier, backed by easyJet founder Stelios Haji-Ioannou, blamed one-off exceptional items of $23.9 million.

The airline, which restructured its balance sheet in December, had a loss of $11.2 million in 2017.

Measures to cut the fleet and re-arrange operations and a stronger balance sheet “have prepared the foundations for an improved overall performance through 2019”.

The airline said in a trading update today: “Based on the group’s current trading performance, Fastjet expects to generate a marginal underlying operating profit for the 2019 financial year, excluding the one-off foreign exchange losses driven in Zimbabwe.

“However, the group’s ability to repatriate funds from Zimbabwe, along with volatility with the Zimbabwean currency, remain as material risks to the business both in relation to ongoing liquidity and foreign exchange translation impacts.”

CEO Nico Bezuidenhout said: In 2018, we took significant and decisive action to right-size the group and ensure the business has a solid platform on which to build future growth.

“Whilst these cost-cutting measures were at times painful, our newly-sized operations provide Fastjet with a materially enhanced strategic position to pursue the growth opportunities on offer on the continent.”

He added: “Despite the impact of cyclones in Mozambique at the start of the current year and continued fuel protests and currency volatility in Zimbabwe, Fastjet is making progress and expects to generate a marginal underlying operating profit for 2019, with further route expansion planned for Zimbabwe in the second half of the coming year, as well as a brand entry into South Africa in 2020.”

More: Fastjet future to be determined within days [Oct 18]

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