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Air Berlin returns to profit

Air Berlin late on Thursday also said its route code-sharing deal with Etihad brought 219,000 passengers into the airline’s network

Gulf News

Frankfurt: Shares in Air Berlin, partly owned by Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways, rose after Germany’s second-biggest airline reported its first operating profit in five years, boosted by the cash sale of a stake in its frequent flyer programme to its key shareholder, Etihad Airways.

The German carrier announced earnings before interest and tax (Ebit) of 70.2 million euros (Dh346.78 million) in 2012, an increase of more than 300 million euros over the previous year, with a net profit of 6.8 million euros.

Air Berlin posted group revenues of 4.31 billion euros, with a load factor increase of 1.6 points to 79.8 per cent. The airline said revenues were boosted by its alliance with Etihad Airways, which delivered more than 219,000 passengers onto its network, accounting for more than 50 million euros in additional revenues.

Shares in Germany’s second biggest airline jumped 8.2 per cent to 2.53 euros as of 1008 GMT in Frankfurt, after it said it made a profit of 70.2 million euros ($93 million) in 2012, compared with a loss of 247 million euros in 2011.

Air Berlin, which is almost 30 per cent owned by Abu Dhabi-based Etihad, has not made a full-year operating profit since 2007 and the result also beat analysts’ forecasts for a loss of around 127 million euros, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S Estimates.

James Hogan, Etihad Airways’ President and Chief Executive Officer, said, “When we announced our equity investment, we made our ambitions clear. We aimed to support airberlin in its drive to become profitable and to build an alliance that would benefit both airlines and the millions of passengers who fly with us every year.”

Air Berlin carved out its “topbonus” frequent flyer programme late last year and sold 70 per cent of it to Etihad in a 184.4 million euro deal that was designed to give a shot in the arm for the loss-making carrier.

“What is surprising from the announcement last night is that if they hadn’t done the topbonus deal, if you removed 184 million euros, then they’d have negative equity,” according to an analyst who declined to be identified.