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May 29 (Bloomberg) -- Malaysian Airline System Bhd., the nation’s largest long-haul carrier, posted a wider first-quarter loss after passenger fares declined and costs increased.

The carrier had a net loss of 278.8 million ringgit ($90 million) in the three months ended March 31, compared with 171.8 million ringgit a year earlier, it said in a statement today. Revenue rose 14 percent to 3.55 billion ringgit.

Finance costs more than doubled to 99.3 million ringgit while passenger yields, the average price a traveler pays to fly one kilometer, declined 5 percent. Singapore Airlines Ltd. also posted a wider operating loss in the period as carriers in Asia face rising competition from Emirates and other Middle East airlines expanding in the region.

Malaysian Air was unchanged at 40.5 sen at close of Kuala Lumpur trading before the announcement. The stock has gained 21 percent this year, compared with a 5.6 percent increase for the benchmark FTSE Bursa Malaysia KLCI Index.

The carrier also had a foreign currency loss of 21 million ringgit in the quarter, compared with a gain of 199.6 million ringgit a year earlier, Malaysian Air said in the statement.

Passenger numbers rose 17 percent in the quarter, while capacity increased 11 percent, the Subang Jaya, Malaysia-based carrier said. Malaysian Air’s seat factor was 76.6 percent in the period. Average jet fuel price was 135 ringgit per barrel in the quarter, increasing costs for the airline, it said.

In December, Malaysian Air agreed to buy 36 aircraft from Avions de Transport Regional as it seeks new planes to cut costs and lure more passengers. The carrier is adding the planes for its Firefly and MASwings units that operate short-haul flights.

To contact the reporter on this story: Karthikeyan Sundaram in New Delhi at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anand Krishnamoorthy at

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