HONG KONG, March 14 (Reuters) - Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd, Asia's No.4 carrier by market value, posted a 61 percent drop in 2011 net profit on Wednesday, hit by high fuel costs and as a slowing global economy reduced cargo demand and passenger growth.
Cathay, the world's largest air cargo carrier, reported a net profit of HK$5.5 billion ($708.83 million) for last year, down from a record HK$14.05 billion in 2010.
The result was slightly below an average forecast of HK$5.82 billion from 17 analysts polled by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Rival Singapore Airlines Ltd has cut cargo capacity and asked its pilots to volunteer for unpaid leave to counter a weak aviation market after it reported a 53 percent plunge in third-quarter net profit.
Shares of Cathay Pacific, which plunged 38 percent in 2011, were up 1.7 percent at HK$15.84 on Wednesday, ahead of the results.
Hong Kong's benchmark index fell 20 percent in 2011.
Cathay owns a 19 percent stake in Air China Ltd , the country's national flag carrier. ($1 = 7.7593 Hong Kong dollars) (Reporting by Alison Leung; Editing by Chris Lewis)