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Czech Airlines makes loss

PRAGUE, May 21 – Czech Airlines (CSA), slated for privatisation by the end of September, on Thursday announced a heavy first-quarter loss caused by a record decline in passenger numbers.

The company posted 1.318 billion koruna (49.5 million euros, 68.2 million dollars) in pre-tax losses, as passenger numbers shrank by an annual 12 percent to 945,000 amid the global crisis.

"As far as passenger numbers are concerned, we are back at the level of four years ago," company president Radomir Lasak told reporters.

"We have revised the company’s financial plan for this year as well as for the following year," he said.

He added the company\’s pre-tax loss should not exceed 13.5 million euros this year after profits worth 18.7 million euros in full-year 2008, and that he expected 5.9 million euros in profits in 2010.

The Czech government, which expects to sell its 91.51-percent stake in CSA by end-September, shortlisted Europe\’s biggest airline Air France-KLM and a Czech grouping of Unimex Group and Travel Service last month.

CSA has implemented cost-cutting measures in recent months and shed its cargo terminal near Prague and its catering unit. It has a fleet of 51 planes and travels to 68 destinations in 40 countries.

Central and Eastern Europe is seen by industry observers as a major growth market for airlines once the financial and economic crisis is over.

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