SAS reports loss, says volcano ash to blame


STOCKHOLM — Beleaguered Scandinavian airline SAS on Wednesday said it narrowed its losses in the second quarter but remained deep in the red due to the flight chaos caused by a cloud of volcanic ash from Iceland in April and May.

“Adjusted for ash-cloud effects, SAS generated a profit for the second quarter of 2010,” departing chief executive Mats Jansson said in a statement.

Between April and June, SAS, in which Norway, Denmark and Sweden together hold half the stock, said it suffered a net loss of 502 million Swedish kronor (53.2 million euros, 68.5 million dollars), compared to a loss of 1.05 billion kronor a year earlier.

Not counting exceptional items and the volcanic ash cloud disruptions, which alone cost SAS around 700 million kronor, the airline said it had a profit of 464 million kronor during the quarter.

Although sales were better than during the first quarter, they remained 19 percent lower than during the April-June period a year ago at 9.98 billion kronor.

The market responded favourably to Wednesday’s report, with SAS shares trading 3.07 percent higher at 26.90 kronor on the Stockholm stock exchange, which was up 0.16 percent.

SAS, which has been hard-hit by the rise of low-cost airline Norwegian and by plunging passenger traffic numbers in the wake of the global economic crisis, saw its second quarter passenger numbers slip 8.3 percent year-on-year to 6.3 million.

The Scandinavian airline launched a major restructuring plan, Core SAS, last year aimed at saving nearly eight billion kronor, entailing more than 5,000 layoffs.

The company announced last week that Jansson, who spearheaded the restructuring plan, would soon step down as chief executive and that it had yet to find a suitable replacement for him.