Tunisair cuts 2002 loss by half


Flag carrier Tunisair said it narrowed its net loss by nearly a half in 2002 thanks to asset sales and cost cutting measures as it tries to cope with industry downturn and a decline in tourist numbers.

Shares in the majority state-owned airline rose 4.5 per cent to 5.35 dinars on the Tunis stock market after it said its net loss declined to 31.052 million dinars ($23.996 million) from 59.637 million in 2001.

Tunisair, in which Air France has a 3.9 per cent stake, has been in the red since 2002, when it reported its first loss in four decades.

The airline said the reduction in the 2002 loss came mainly from the sale of shares it owned in Union Internationale de Banques UIB, worth 15.5 million dinars, and the sale of an Airbus A300b4 plane for 6.1 million dinars.

French bank Societe Generale acquired a 52 per cent stake in UIB for more than 100 million dinars in October from several Tunisian state-owned firms, including Tunisair.

Tunisair still owns some shares in UIB but airline officials were not immediately available to comment on the level of its holding.

The airline, which draws most of its earnings from European routes, also said the increase of the value of the euro against the dinar inflated its 2002 revenues by 12 million dinars.

Tunisair said in January it had shelved a 700-million-dinar plan to buy 12 aircraft because of the industry downturn.