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THAI AIRWAYS

Earnings to be top priority

Thai Airways International's board of directors yesterday met with Sorajak Kasemsuwan, the new president, and told him they hoped he would use his abilities to drive the airline's revenue growth by at least 6-8 per cent annually, with EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation) of Bt25 billion to Bt30 billion.

Board chairman Ampon Kittiampon said THAI's financial improvement would need to be one of Sorajak's first priorities. Especially in the current final quarter of the year, he will have to follow existing policies to return the ailing company to profitability.

Previously, the national carrier targeted net profit of Bt6 billion this year. Ampon said that although this year's financial performance should be "good", he declined to reveal details.

Last year, THAI suffered a Bt10.2-billion loss. In the first nine months of this year, Ampon said, its unofficial results were "positive" and he was satisfied.

Although the airline has new aircraft including an Airbus A380 and is modernising its seating to make its service levels more competitive, he said the new president would have to be cautious. The airline has been engulfed by risks including uncertain fuel costs, high competition and high expenditures, as well as the financial crisis in Europe.

More important, he said Sorajak would have to maintain THAI's status as one of the world's major airlines, especially in Japan, Europe and Australia, which are its key markets. Also, he will have to establish Thai Smile, a sub-brand of THAI, as a truly competitive regional airline next year.

At yesterday's meeting, the board discussed with Sorajak the airline's business direction along with its financial performance. He will use the ideas from the meeting to define a 2013 strategic business plan to be submitted to the board on December 20.

Sorajak said that during the rest of this year he would work hard to make the company more profitable. He intends to contribute its profit to shareholders and bonus payments for THAI employees, aiming to boost staff morale.


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