Embattled Malaysia Airlines Could Run Out of Cash 2015; Diverts Plane Over Another War Zone After MH17 Crash

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By Esther Tanquintic-Misa | July 23, 2014 12:46 PM EST

A restructuring plan meant to be announced in 2015 to save the embattled Malaysia Airlines could be already revealed this August.

REUTERS/Maxim Zmeyev
Armed pro-Russian separatists stand guard as monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and members of a Malaysian air crash investigation team inspect the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, near the village of Hrabove (Grabovo), Donetsk region July 22, 2014. A train carrying the remains of many of the 298 victims of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 arrived in a Ukrainian government-held city on Tuesday on the first leg of their final journey home to be reclaimed by their families. REUTERS/Maxim Zmeyev (UKRAINE - Tags: TRANSPORT DISASTER CIVIL UNREST POLITICS)

This, as MAS diverted one of its planes into yet another war zone area, this time Syria. After Ukrainian authorities closed its airspace following flight MH017's downing last Thursday, MAS, just this Sunday re-routed flight MH004 from Kuala Lumpur to London over Syrian airspace.

The change in the timeline of plans, reported by Reuters citing two people "with knowledge of the matter," is notably premised on the July 17 downing of flight MH17 in Ukraine, which occurred just four months after flight MH370 mysteriously disappeared from the sky in March. Last week's aviation accident is expected to further dry up the airliner's coffers, which has been in the red of the last three years.

"The restructuring plan was expected to be unveiled after the airline releases its second-quarter results in the middle of next month," the unidentified sources said.

Read: Malaysia Airlines MH17: Russian Govt Found Tinkering Wikipedia Crash Info

Ahmad Jauhari Yahya, Malaysia Airlines CEO, had earlier admitted that the streak of unlucky incidents cannot be mended by incremental improvements alone. "Our only option at this point of our business evolution is sweeping change," the Wall Street Journal quoted him as saying.

The sweeping change could mean a privatisation of the airline's ownership, something that the Reuters sources also implied. Government investment vehicle Khazanah Nasional Bhd, which controls MAS by 70 per cent, had expressed earlier this year that it wants to divest some of its holding.

Khazanah has injected more than 5 billion ringgit ($1.58 billion) into the airline company in the past 10 years.

MAS' passenger numbers had plummeted by 60 per cent, and that was due alone to the mysterious March disappearance of MH370.

Read: Malaysia Airlines MH17: Investigation into Cause of Crash Could Stretch to a Year; Black Box May Not Prove Missile as Cause

Mohshin Aziz from Malaysian broker Maybank had advised clients with MAS shares sometime in June to sell them.

"Our analysis alludes that MAS financials are very weak in their current form. With a cash burn rate of MYR5 ($1.6 million) a day, MAS could exhaust its entire free cash resources ... by the end of 2015," Aziz wrote in a note to investors.

This analysis was before the downing and crash of Malaysia Airlines MH17 that killed all 298 passengers onboard.

Daniel Wong, HLIB Research analyst, however said the accident will bear minimal direct impact to the cash flows of the beleaguered airline company because compensations to the families of the MH17 victims are covered by insurance.

Read: Malaysia Airlines MH17: Vital Black Boxes Finally Land in Hands of Malaysian Authorities, Rebels Announce Ceasefire (PHOTOS/VIDEOS)

Fredrik Lindahl, CEO of Flightradar24, a Web site that tracks the routes of airlines, found it odd that MAS approved one of its airliners to pass through Syria, which is in the middle of a bloody civil war.

"With Iraq you always see aircraft flying there. There is no other way to access parts of the Middle East than to use the Iraq corridor," he told Reuters. "But you don't see Syria so often. We saw no other trans-continental flight that went through Syrian airspace yesterday."

MAS defended the move was in consonance to the routes approved by the UN's International Civil Aviation Organisation. "As per the notice to airmen issued by the Syrian Civil Aviation Authority, the Syrian airspace was not subject to restrictions. At all times, MH4 was in airspace approved by ICAO," it said.

Read: Malaysia Airlines MH17: Russia's Putin World's Getting Small, Pitted Against Global Leaders

While approved, it seemed however that Malaysia Airlines was the only airline company brave enough to traverse above Syrian airspace.

"As far as we have seen MH04 was the only transcontinental flight going over Syria," Flightradar24 said.

"You don't find British Airways, United Airlines or Emirates flying over Syria," Flightradar24's Mikael Robertsson said. "They've been avoiding Syria for more than a year."

Read: Malaysia Airlines MH17: Too Much Blow for Mourning Families as Rebels Steal Bodies; Complete Passenger. Crew List Released

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(Photo: REUTERS/Maxim Zmeyev / )
Armed pro-Russian separatists stand guard as monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and members of a Malaysian air crash investigation team inspect the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, near the village of Hrabove (Grabovo), Donetsk region July 22, 2014. A train carrying the remains of many of the 298 victims of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 arrived in a Ukrainian government-held city on Tuesday on the first leg of their final journey home to be reclaimed by their families. REUTERS/Maxim Zmeyev (UKRAINE - Tags: TRANSPORT DISASTER CIVIL UNREST POLITICS)
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