By LOUISE NORDSTROM, Associated Press
STOCKHOLM (AP) — Scandinavian airline group SAS blamed high jet fuel prices and the economic crisis for a nearly doubling its losses in the first quarter of the year.
The company said Thursday that it posted a loss of 729 million kronor ($108 million) in the first three months of the year from 373 million kronor in the same period the year before.
CEO Rickard Gustafson said the figures represented "unsatisfactorily negative earnings for the seasonally weak first quarter of 2012."
The Stockholm-headquartered group, whose business has been hit hard in the past decade by the cut-throat competition of budget airlines, also said there was too much uncertainty for it to provide a clear earnings steer for the year ahead.
However, it did say that despite fierce competition, the weaker financial environment and the uncertainty regarding the development of jet fuel prices, it expects the market to "continue to grow" and passenger growth of 5-7 percent.
A more detailed look at the figures shows that revenues in the January-March period improved compared with the same three months a year ago, rising to 9.59 billion kronor from 9.31 billion kronor. The year-on-year improvement was partly thanks to a 5.3 percent rise in the number of passengers.
SAS is currently in the process of rejuvenating its fleet, a move it said will help it reduce fuel and maintenance costs as well as CO2 emissions.
Last year, SAS launched a cost-cutting program in the hope of saving 5 billion kronor ($750 million) over 2012-13. It accelerated the program in February.
Gustafson said that although the measures, which include reducing administration staff, are going to plan, his company won't see earnings effects from the savings until "the latter part of 2012."
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