Malaysia Airlines shares lose 18% after latest disaster

Malaysia Airlines shares lose 18% after latest disaster
An armed pro-Russian separatist stands on part of the wreckage of the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane after it crashed near the settlement of Grabovo in the Donetsk region, July 17, 2014.

KUALA LUMPUR - Shares in Malaysia Airlines tumbled almost 18 per cent on Friday after one of its passenger jets crashed in violence-wracked Ukraine, just months after the carrier was hit by the loss of a plane over the Indian Ocean.

The firm fell 17.8 per cent to 0.185 ringgit at one point in morning trade on the Kuala Lumpur stock exchange, before paring some of those losses to sit 13 per cent lower.

Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 was carrying 298 people from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it came down late Thursday over eastern Ukraine, with US officials said it was shot down by a surface-to-air missile.

Ukrainian government forces are engaged in a fierce battle to quell a rebellion in the country's east by pro-Russian insurgents.

Malaysia Airlines is still reeling from the unexplained disappearance March 8 of flight MH370 with 239 people aboard.

Combined with the airline's perennial losses, the MH370 debacle has pummelled its shares this year - it has lost more than a third of its value since January 1 - and sparked intense speculation over whether it may be sold off or restructured.

The latest crash worsens the carrier's outlook, said Mohshin Aziz, research analyst at Maybank Investment Bank.

"In the history of aviation... there's never been an airline that had to go through two huge disasters in the span of four months, so I don't think there's any historical evidence that they can get out of this," he told Dow Jones Newswires.

MH370 mysteriously diverted off its Kuala Lumpur-Beijing route and is now believed to have crashed in a remote part of the Indian Ocean.

However, no clues to its fate have been found despite an exhaustive multi-national search effort, and the carrier's often chaotic handling of the crisis drew wide criticism

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