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Qantas cuts pre-tax profit estimates

INVESTORS will be looking for signs that Qantas is managing costs - in particular a soaring fuel bill - when the airline posts its full year results on Thursday.

Qantas shocked the market with a massive earnings downgrade in June, slashing its underlying profit before tax estimates to between $50 million and $100 million for the year to June 30, 2012.

It blamed the downgrade on a $450 million pre-tax loss in its troubled international division plus a $100 million cost from industrial action.

Chief executive Alan Joyce has flagged a looming statutory loss and, in a note issued after the profit downgrade, investment researcher Morningstar estimated Qantas would turn in a statutory loss of $198 million after restructuring costs of between $370 million and $380 million.

The airline is in the middle of a restructuring program that will cut a total of 2,800 jobs and includes closing its heavy maintenance facility at Melbourne's Tullamarine airport and selling two catering centres.

Morningstar has estimated Qantas's full year net profit at $67 million before abnormal items, down from $277 million prior to the downgrade.

Goldman Sachs has estimated full year net profit, before abnormal items, of $54.1 million.

Qantas posted a $250 million profit for 2010/11.

Goldman Sachs analyst Andrew Gibson said in a June note to clients that 2012/13 earnings should benefit from the end of industrial action in FY12, the cutting of loss-making routes and other restructuring initiatives.

However risks remain from increased competition in the domestic market, which has been Qantas's best-performing division.

Qantas also flagged it would incur its highest yet fuel bill in 2011/12, and Fat Prophets analyst Greg Fraser said management of fuel costs through hedging and currency strategies will be a factor to watch.

Thursday's results will be the last filed by Qantas in its current configuration, with the airline having split its domestic and international operations into separate reporting entities from the start of the 2012/13 financial year.

Shekhar Gupta
Capt. Shekhar Gupta [ Pilot, DIAM, M.Ae.S.I., MAOPA [USA] ] 
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