Etihad Airways in First-Ever Net Profit in 2011

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Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways on Thursday posted a net profit of $14 million for 2011, exceeding its goal of breaking even for the first time ever, a statement said.

The national carrier of the United Arab Emirates said its revenues were up 36 percent in 2011 to $4.1 billion, with net profit touching $14 million.

"The record result exceeded the airline's 2011 target, which was to break even," the statement said.

The carrier transported 8.3 million passengers in 2011, up 17 percent from the previous year, with an average seat factor of 75.8 percent.

Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, amortization and rentals (EBITDAR) stood at $648 million, while earning before interest and tax only amounted to $137 million, the statement said.

Etihad posted $1.72 billion in revenues for the first half of 2011, up 28 percent on the same period of 2010.

"This is an historic day for Etihad Airways and an amazing achievement for an airline just eight years old," said James Hogan, president and chief executive officer of Etihad in the statement.

"Five years ago we said we would be profitable by 2011. Despite the global financial crisis, continued high oil prices, regional instability and natural disasters, we have delivered," he said.

Etihad began operations in 2003.

Hogan said that "in spite of the tough global economic environment," the carrier would aim for strong growth this year, targeting a passenger traffic of 10 million and "a corresponding increase in profits."

In December, Etihad increased its stake in Germany's second-largest airline airberlin to 29.21 percent with an investment of 72.9 million euros ($95 million at the time of announcement).

"This was a game changing move for Etihad Airways, adding 157 destinations and giving us access to 35 million new passengers," Hogan said.

"The airberlin deal will be our most important catalyst for growth in 2012. It has given us instant access to Europe's largest travel market, and will have a major impact on revenues in 2012, with an expected contribution of up to US$50 million," he added.

Last month Etihad announced signing a memorandum of understanding with the government of the Seychelles to acquire a 40 percent stake in Air Seychelles for $20 million.

The carrier will also provide a shareholder's loan of $25 million to meet working capital requirements and support network development, it said.

Etihad serves 83 passenger and cargo destinations in the Middle East, Africa, Europe, Asia, Australia and North America, with a fleet of 65 Airbus and Boeing aircraft.

It has 100 planes on order, including 10 Airbus A380 superjumbos, the world's largest passenger airliner.

The UAE is also home to Dubai-owned Emirates, one of the world's fastest growing carriers, while the airport of Dubai is the Middle East's busiest and has transformed the Gulf emirate into a transit hub.

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