PAL says investor talks delayed but fleet expansion still on

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Philippine Airlines is the only carrier from the Philippines to have a 4-star rating. -- WWW.FACEBOOK.COM/FLYPAL/

MANILA — Philippine Airlines said on Tuesday its ongoing talks with a potential foreign investor will take “a few more months” to conclude but it vowed to continue expanding operations despite challenges such as congestion at the country’s main airport.

The flag carrier expects to take delivery of 15 planes this year, including four Airbus A350s, under its $2-billion expansion program that will make its fleet one of the youngest in Asia. It plans to phase out the older ones in its current fleet of 88 aircraft.

“It will take a few more months because talking to investors is not really easy,” Jaime J. Bautista, president of the airline’s operator PAL Holdings, Inc., said in a media briefing.

He was earlier hoping to seal a deal with a foreign strategic partner, who may get a minority stake in PAL, last year.

“We are not promising any date. We will just surprise you,” he said, on when the foreign investor will likely come in. He declined to give further information, citing a confidentiality agreement, when asked whether the potential investor was an airline.

“They (potential foreign partner) want to look at profitability of the airline,” he said. “Of course they want to have a good return on their investment and also to have access (to) our market.”

PAL Holdings posted a comprehensive loss of P3.55 billion ($68 million) for the nine months to September last year as rise in costs, including fuel, outpaced revenue growth.

Mr. Bautista said PAL Holdings will also book as additional expenses last year the P6 billion it paid the government in the last quarter to settle navigational fees and other charges.

He said a congested Manila international airport was also a challenge, as he welcomed news that a consortium of seven Philippine conglomerates has offered to transform the airport into a regional hub and expand its capacity.

Philippine Airlines expects to carry about 16.5 million passengers this year, from last year’s total of almost 15 million, he said. — Reuters