Can PIA Survive?

Posted on November 4, 2006
Filed Under >Adil Najam, Economy & Development
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Adil Najam

According to a story in Dawn today (4 November, 2006) “Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) is in such dire financial straits that it may be threatened with liquidation because of its monthly losses of more than Rs1 billion and its current liabilities which exceed its assets by more than Rs20 billion.” The report goes on to say:

The corporation’s chartered accounts Anjum Asim Shahid Rahman and Ford Rhodes Sidat Hyder & Co wrote in their note to the half-yearly report that the corporation has incurred a gross loss of Rs74 million and a net loss of Rs6.144 billion during the half year ended June 30, resulting in accumulated losses of Rs17.944 billion on the balance sheet date. According to the auditors, the corporation’s current liabilities on June 30 this year exceeded its current assets by Rs. 20.326 billion

The auditors were not satisfied with the PIA’s methodology to evaluate costs of inventories and were not ready to give audit certificate for Rs6.2 billion accounted for as capital spares and consumable stores.
The PIA management said the net loss of Rs6.144 billion was due to increase in international fuel prices. The fuel cost for the half year ended June 30, 2006, amounted to Rs16.442 billion. PIA spokesman Imran Ghaznavi said the corporation’s liabilities had surpassed its assets by Rs22 billion by September 30 because of higher fuel prices. He said the company had asked the government for financial restructuring and they are examining our proposals”.

The airline is currently considering operational restructuring measures, including disinvestment of its holding in PIA Investment Limited or dispose of its properties to improve cash flows. The national flag carrier’s cash flows have already been hit by the European Union regulators’ decision to curtail some of its flights on the lucrative European sectors, particularly United Kingdom, on account of safety concerns due to inadequate maintenance.

Already, as part of the financial package an amount of Rs6.575 billion has been provided to the corporation up to June 30, 2006, against which 543 million A-class ordinary shares of Rs10 each were issued to the GOP. Another Rs114 million shares are expected to be issued during the current financial year. The federal government has already provided Rs8.8 billion as equity and guarantees to the PIA for the purchase of eight new Boeing 777 aircrafts out of which five have been acquired to date.

I have hazy memories of a time when PIA was considered to be an exciting international and were exported to the Middle East and elsewhere to help launch other airlines that have since become award winners. One had thought for a while that the purchase of new airplanes and cosmetic changes in the staff as well as on the tailfins (here) might signify a shift towards better times. Of course, the recent Fokker crash (here)and the subsequent decision to stop using Fokkers could also not have helped (here). Yet, it seems that the troubles are even deeper than one might have imagined.

As a very frequent traveler on PIA, I have long wondered how it could be operating at a loss. The flights are always full and brimming, and especially on the most lucrative routes it is always difficult to get a ticket. The prices are competitive and sometimes even greater than other airlines. Theoretically, all of this should mean that the airline should be making money. Obviously, theory does not work in this case. Nor does, it seems, PIA.

Will the airline survive? I certainly hope so. But for how long and in what shape?

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23 responses to “Can PIA Survive?”

  1. Daktar says:

    Rumors of the airline’s death are as old as the airline itself….. and hopefully they are exagerated. It can and should be saved.

  2. Samdani says:

    Since everything else is being privatised, why not PIA?

  3. lol, the first cartoon is awesome ;-). Where did you get this from?

    On a serious note, I would prefer PIA over SAUDI airlines while going to saudia. I’m serious.

  4. Eidee Man says:

    The reason PIA’s so unsuccessful is that it’s managed by people involved in politics. Even though PIA has some of the best trained staff in the world (they get recruited to other airlines all the time and Emirates was practically built by PIA staff in the late 80’s) and they have other unique advantages, they are having all of these problems.

    A point that PIA employees bring up all the time is that PIA pays them VERY little compared to other airlines such as Emirates and yet their airfares are about the same as other airlines.

  5. Kamal I. says:

    This is very serious thing. As you say, the LIABILITIES are now GREATER than the ASSETS. So what they owe is mroe than what they have. That is disaster. A case for breaking it up and divesting it. Maybe turn it into two different airlines, a local and an international one. Since I believe the international actually makes money.

  6. Trekker says:

    This poses a very immediate concern for me — we were planning to fly IAD-LHR-LHE around Christmas and have confirmed seats but if 747s are not allowed as the equipment, what becomes of the confirmed passengers?

  7. Daktar says:

    AGain, I do not think the airline is about to disappear. It needs a serious management overhail and a lot of epople who politically got jobs in it should be kicked out. It has too much staff and needs to be lean to compete. I think there is no reason whyit should not be making a project if it is made really independent from politics. Every govt has filled it with its own people who cannot be kicked out. So you see a PPP wing and Jamaat wing a PML wing and all sorts of other wings. It should be run like an independent company.

  8. Eidee Man says:

    Actually, financial trouble is nothing new for PIA. The government has bailed it out every time…I’d be surprised if they don’t do the same this time. It’s extremely unlikely that they’ll let it collapse.

    As badly run as it is, PIA’s role is too critical to let “the market” take care of it.

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