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Air Mauritius Posts Nine-Month Loss, Plans to Reduce Routes

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Feb. 14 (Bloomberg) -- Air Mauritius Ltd., sub-Saharan Africa’s fourth-biggest airline, plans to cut long-haul flights and sell an Airbus plane after announcing a nine-month loss.

The carrier posted a loss of 20.9 million euros ($28 million) for the three quarters through December compared with 5.34 million profit a year earlier, the Port Louis-based company said in a statement handed to reporters today. It had a loss of 2.8 million euros in the third quarter compared with a profit of 12.6 million euros previously as operating costs climbed 20 percent, it said.

“The current situation is worse” than initial forecasts, the company said. Results for the full year will be “significantly impacted” by the debt crisis in Europe, a stronger rupee against the euro and higher fuel prices, the airline, which carries about about half of passengers flying into the country, said.

Europe is the Indian Ocean island nation’s biggest source of tourists, accounted for 63 percent of travelers last year, according to the country’s statistics agency. Arrivals declined 2.2 percent in December, a peak tourist month. The rupee gained 6.5 percent against the euro since the start of last year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

New Planes

A five-year plan will return the company to profitability in the 2013-14 financial year, Andre Viljoen, the acting chief executive officer, told reporters. Long-haul weekly flights will be cut to focus on fewer routes with additional frequencies, leading to an unused Airbus A340-300 being “parked for sale,” he said.

Air Mauritius plans to buy more “efficient” planes over the next five years, Viljoen said. “We are not precluding possibilities to get Boeings,” he said. All of the airline’s 12 planes are Airbus, according to its website. The company is also considering a partnership, he said.

The stock dropped 3.7 percent to 13 rupees by the close in Port Louis, extending the decline this year to 19 percent.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kamlesh Bhuckory in Port Louis at kbhuckory@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Antony Sguazzin at asguazzin@bloomberg.net

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