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Philippine Airlines' financial woes mount as restructuring looms

Parent PAL Holdings warns carrier 'will have a long way to go for recovery'

Philippine Airlines is in "the final stages of a comprehensive restructuring plan," according to parent PAL Holding. (Source photos by Reuters)

MANILA -- Financial woes continue to mount for Philippine Airlines even as the flag carrier's parent says it is in the "final stages" of a plan to restructure its debt.

PAL Holdings on Thursday reported a net loss of 8.6 billion pesos ($178 million) for the three months through March, while its capital deficit -- the difference between assets and liabilities -- worsened by nearly 10 billion pesos to 83.9 billion pesos over the three months.

The company said in a press release accompanying the results that the carrier is in "the final stages of a comprehensive restructuring plan that will enable the airline to emerge financially stronger from the current global crisis."

Results for 2020, released the same day, underscored the impact of the pandemic on the company. Net loss surged to 73 billion pesos from 9.7 billion pesos in 2019, while revenues shrank 64% to 55.3 billion pesos. Its capital deficit stood at 74 billion pesos at the end of the year, from 3.5 billion pesos in 2019.

Philippine Airlines President Gilbert Santa Maria told employees in a virtual town-hall meeting late last year that the company was planning to seek court protection for its debt restructuring. It also planned to surrender aircraft to lessors and raise $505 million in fresh financing to get through a "bankruptcy process." The company also retrenched over 2,000 employees, equivalent to a third of its workforce, early this year.

The 2020 annual report released Thursday offered updates about Philippine Airlines' cost-cutting moves, saying the airline has already started its fleet restructuring in accordance with a projected reduced demand in air travel. However it had not filed "any rehabilitation plan with any court" as of May 26.

The airline will also rationalize its route network by stopping "certain ultra-long-haul routes and adjusting frequencies of its overall route network" as compared to 2019 levels, the company said.

PAL Holdings, controlled by Philippine tycoon Lucio Tan and partly owned by Japan's ANA Holdings, said it has drawn on "bridge funding and support from its majority shareholder and deferred payments through the forbearance of lessors, lenders and suppliers." 

"Philippine Airlines will have a long way to go for recovery," PAL Holdings said. "The uncertainty of the situation still prevails, but news on the availability of COVID-19 vaccine brings hope that passenger traffic will be better than 2020."

ANA Holdings, the parent company of All Nippon Airways, has a 9.5% stake in PAL Holdings.

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