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UPDATE 2-Japan's ANA forecasts return to profit as vaccine rollouts help revive air travel

* ANA expects domestic travel to rebound to near pre-pandemic level this business year

* ANA says international travel will not recover until 2024

* 4Q loss almost doubled as pandemic continued to sap demand (Adds detail)

TOKYO, April 30 (Reuters) - Japan’s biggest airline, ANA Holdings Inc, on Friday forecast a return to profit this business year, bouncing back from a record loss on expectations air travel demand will rebound as vaccines contain the coronavirus.

“Based on data from countries where vaccination has progressed, it appears that the spread of COVID-19 can be contained,” ANA said in its earnings release.

For the 12 months to March 2022, ANA forecast operating profit of 28 billion yen ($257.40 million) after a 464.7 billion yen loss in the last business year. That outlook compares with an average estimated loss of 69.4 billion yen based on forecasts from 10 analysts, Refinitiv data showed.

ANA, like other carriers, has been losing money as it burns through cash to keep the jets and workers it will need when travel demand rebounds.

Demand for domestic flights recovered at the end of last year to around half of pandemic levels, but fell back to a quarter as fresh infection waves kept people at home.

International routes are still flying with only around 5% of the passengers they previously had.

ANA expects domestic passenger numbers to recover to four fifths of pre-pandemic levels this business year and for international routes to be at 30% as restrictions on foreign visitors are eased, CEO Shinya Katanozaka said at a press briefing.

International travel is unlikely to fully recover until 2024, he added.

Japan’s borders remain closed to most foreign non-residents. In 2020, the number of overseas visitors to Japan plunged by almost nine tenths to a 22-year low.

Although it carried fewer people, the Japanese airline hauled more goods, with profits from its air cargo business more than doubling in the three months to March 31 compared with the same quarter a year earlier.

It wasn’t enough, however to make up for losses from passenger planes, with ANA posting a fourth-quarter operating loss of 102.3 billion yen versus a loss of 58.8 billion yen a year earlier. That result for the three months to March 31 was worse than an estimated average loss of 60 billion yen from three analysts surveyed by Refinitiv. ($1 = 108.7800 yen) (Reporting by Tim Kelly; Editing by Clarence Fernandez, Christopher Cushing and Raju Gopalakrishnan)

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