Passenger numbers plunge
Air France-KLM Group, Europe’s biggest airline, said passenger traffic last month fell 1.9 percent and cargo shipments plunged as the global recession reduced demand for business travel and retrained trade. The load factor, or proportion of seats filled, was 76.6 percent, a 0.5 percentage-point decline from a year earlier, the Paris-based carrier said yesterday in a statement. Cargo traffic contracted by 23 percent. The global recession will cause industry passenger numbers to fall by 3 percent this year and airlines to log combined losses of US$2.5 billion, International Air Transport Association estimates show. The decline in freight “is absolutely horrendous and that says a lot about where corporate Europe is,” said Andrew Fitchie, a London-based analyst at Collins Stewart. “It’s not looking good at all.” Global air freight plunged almost 23 percent in December, the International Air Transport Association said on Jan. 29. The decline was the largest the trade body had ever recorded.
China, Malaysia ink deal
The central banks of China and Malaysia have signed a currency swap agreement, the Chinese government said, as Asia’s second-largest economy strengthened regional ties amid the global crisis. The People’s Bank of China and Bank Negara Malaysia announced the three-year, 80 billion yuan (US$11.7 billion) agreement on Sunday, the Chinese central bank said in a statement on its Web site. “The arrangement aims to promote bilateral trade and investment to boost the economic development of the two countries,” the brief statement said. Arrangements such as these ease liquidity trouble as they boost the amount of yuan that Malaysian banks can draw on while servicing local companies that use the Chinese currency when trading.
S Korean banks downgraded
International agency Moody’s said yesterday that it had downgraded ratings for eight South Korean banks, citing their dependence on the government to secure foreign currency funding. The foreign currency long-term senior debt ratings of the eight banks, including the country’s largest lender Kookmin Bank, were cut to “A2.” The revised ratings carry a stable outlook, except for state-run Korea Development Bank, which has a negative outlook. Because the banks rely on government support to secure foreign currency funding during the crisis, Moody’s believes their foreign currency debt ratings should not be higher than that of the government, senior credit officer Beatrice Woo said in a statement. “Therefore, their foreign currency debt ratings are best measured and constrained at the A2 foreign currency sovereign bond level,” she said.
SingTel reports growth
Singapore Telecommunications (SingTel) yesterday reported a 35 percent increase in regional mobile subscribers, despite stiff competition and the global economic crisis. SingTel’s combined regional mobile customer base reached 232 million on Dec. 31, Southeast Asia’s largest telecommunications firm said. On a quarterly basis, the increase was 7.3 percent, or 16 million customers, it said. All six of the company’s regional mobile associates posted double-digit customer growth, ranging from 13 percent to 55 percent, compared with a year earlier, SingTel said. The company has stakes in Thailand’s Advanced Info Service, India’s Bharti, Globe Telecom of the Philippines, Indonesia’s Telkomsel, Pacific Bangladesh Telecom and Pakistan’s Warid Telecom.