AWT World Transport Holdings has recorded its first losses since its founding 23 years ago on the back of a slowdown in the air freight business and a failed joint venture. The company yesterday announced losses attributable to shareholders of $18.08 million for the six months to September, compared with a profit of $12.97 million for the same period last year. Much of the losses were contained in a $14.71 million exceptional provision for the planned liquidation of a 50-50 joint venture with a wholly owned subsidiary of the Bank of East Asia. AWT and the bank are winding up the East Asia AWT (China) Holdings venture because of questions over the operation's status. Although turnover rose 34 per cent to $260.62 million, a weakened business environment caused AWT to record an operating loss of $1.07 million, compared with a profit of $14.44 million a year earlier. 'Keen competition in the air freight business . . . had resulted in a softening of freight charges. This, together with an abundant supply of plane space, caused a drop in profit margin,' the company said.