Even before the loss of its Flight MH370, Malaysian Airline System (MAS) was bleeding cash, prompting talk that it may need another financial rescue from state investor Khazanah Nasional Bhd, its majority shareholder.

The flag carrier's cash and short-term investments at end-December were close to $1.2 billion- less than its average operating costs of the two previous quarters, and a signal that it may soon need fresh funding or bank loans.

MAS, Southeast Asia's fourth-largest airline by market value, has had negative operating cash flow for three years- which means it is not generating enough cash to meet its day-to-day operating costs- and has had negative free cash flow- operating cash flow minus capital expenditure- for six years.