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Virgin Australia on Friday posted an annual net loss of Aus$355.6 million (US$332 million) as intense competition led by Qantas, weak consumer sentiment and high taxes hurt its bottom line. The country's second largest carrier also announced the sale of a 35 percent stake in its frequent flyer programme to private equity firm Affinity Equity Partners, boosting its cash balance by Aus$336 million. The result was more than triple the Aus$98.1 million loss it reported in the 12 months to June 30 the previous year, and follows huge annual losses by Qantas on Thursday. The carrier, which is majority owned by Singapore Airlines, Air New Zealand and Etihad, blamed excess market capacity, weak consumer sentiment, economic uncertainty and Aus$51.6 million in carbon tax costs for the poor numbers.
Struggling Malaysia Airlines suspended trading in its shares Friday ahead of an announcement later in the day on a restructuring plan aimed at keeping the carrier in business following two devastating air tragedies. State investment fund Khazanah Nasional, which owns 70 percent of Malaysia Airlines (MAS) and has announced plans to de-list and take it private, is expected to detail the reform plans in a press briefing at 3 pm (0700 GMT). In a statement to the Malaysian stock exchange, MAS said trading of its shares was halted pending an "announcement from Khazanah in relation to the details of a proposed restructuring of MAS".
By Stephanie Nebehay GENEVA (Reuters) - Three million Syrian refugees will have registered in neighboring countries as of Friday, an exodus that began in March 2011 and shows no sign of abating, the United Nations said. The record figure is one million refugees more than a year ago, while a further 6.5 million are displaced within Syria, meaning that "almost half of all Syrians have now been forced to abandon their homes and flee for their lives", it said. "The Syrian crisis has become the biggest humanitarian emergency of our era, yet the world is failing to meet the needs of refugees and the countries hosting them," Antonio Guterres, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, said in a statement. The vast majority remain in neighboring countries, with the highest concentrations in Lebanon (1.14 million), Turkey (815,000) and Jordan (608,000), the UNHCR said.