,KUALA LUMPUR: A gradual recovery in air travel may only be seen in the second half of this year despite optimism that the vaccines will expedite the return to normalcy.Kenanga Research said in its aviation sector update that it expects airlines to continue facing tougher operating conditions in the first half of 2021 until there is widespread availability of vaccines, given the risk of sporadic resurgence of Covid-19 infections.The research house, which has a "neutral" rating on the sector, continues to be positive on Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd as the monopolistic airport operator in the country.In addition, the government has approved the extension of MAHB's concession ot operate 39 airports in aMalaysia from 2034 to 2069."The yet to be signed Operating Agreement could be an impetus for a re-rating catalyst for MAHB," said Kenanga, which has an "outperform" call on the counter.It rolled over its valuation from FY21 to FY22, and raised its target price to RM7.50 from RM6.86, based on 23x FY22 forecast earnings per share.Meanwhile, the research house views AirAsia's recent fund raising via a new shares issue positively, as an inteirm measure to address its immediate cash flow requirements."AirAsia is navigating its recovery phase exceptionally well as key operational metrics improved in December in comparison to September, notably with a 31% increase in passengers carried by AirAsia Thailand, doubling of passengers carried by AirAsia Philippines, while AirAsia Indonesia multiplied its number of passengers carried by a whopping 11 times."These improvements signify a solid rebound for air travel demand across the Group’s key operating markets," said Kenanga.
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