Air France-KLM shares hit all-time low as Q3 underwhelms

By Joanna Plucinska

LONDON (Reuters) -Shares in Air France-KLM fell as much as 8% to an all-time low on Friday as record third-quarter profits just missed expectations and some analysts worried about rising fuel costs and a lack of profit guidance for the fourth quarter.

The airline reported an operating profit of 1.34 billion euros ($1.37 billion) for July-September, up 31% year-on-year but 2% below analysts’ consensus forecast.

British Airways-owner IAG beat forecasts on Friday with record third quarter profits, as airlines benefit from strong summer travel.

Air France-KLM left its guidance for capacity, capital spending and unit costs unchanged for the full financial year.

“All in all we believe the results are mixed, not delivering a beat this time and lacking Q4 yield commentary,” Stifel analysts wrote in a note, also pointing to an increase in full-year fuel cost expectations to $7.8 billion from $7.5 billion.

Air France-KLM said it did not expect to return to pre-pandemic capacity levels in the French market. Earlier this month, it said it would stop operating most domestic flights from Paris-Orly airport by summer 2026 amid falling demand for domestic business flights and a growing shift to rail travel.

“In the domestic market where we are not returning to pre-COVID levels and we do not expect to return to pre-COVID levels … because of the TGV rail links in France, there is a true viable alternative. For routes like Paris-Marseille where the train takes about three hours, we’ve seen demand plummet by 50%”, Chief Executive Ben Smith said in a call with analysts.

Geopolitical instability following the attacks by Hamas in Israel on Oct. 7, which led to flight cancellations, should not have a significant impact on the group, it said.

Air-France-KLM’s main affected route is Tel Aviv, as flights to and from the city remain suspended until Oct. 31, the group said on Thursday.

“In terms of its impact on overall results, it’s insignificant”, Smith said.

The group is, however, seeing a slight reduction in demand to some of other destinations it serves around Israel, it said.

It has not suspended services to any other Middle East destinations, Smith said.

($1 = 0.9474 euro)

(Reporting by Joanna Plucinska, Diana Mandiá and Federica MileoEditing by Jonathan Oatis and Mark Potter)