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Malaysian Airlines likely won't return to profit this year, CEO says



By Anshuman Daga

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Malaysian Airlines' chief executive Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said the loss-making carrier will likely miss its target of returning to profit this year as it struggles with a sharp drop in passenger demand following the disappearance of flight MH370 in March.

Jauhari told analysts in a conference call late on Thursday that 2014 will be "an uphill struggle" for Malaysian Airline System Bhd (MAS) as the carrier overhauls its business strategy. MAS, which has lost money for the past three years, reported its worst quarter in over two years on Thursday.

"Two months on, negative sentiment and perception still outweigh, and this has impacted our company. Our turnaround plan for profitability by end of 2014 is probably now not achievable," Jauhari said.

MAS, which did not provide financial forecasts in its earnings statement, is working on a new business plan to try to cut costs. Reuters reported earlier this week that the airline is looking to sell a stake in its engineering unit and upgrade its ageing fleet as part of an overhaul. ($1 = 3.2260 Malaysian Ringgits)

(Reporting by Anshuman Daga; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)

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