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Dubai Emirates bucked the global trend again by reporting profits for the 24th consecutive year amid rising fuel prices that slashed the group's net profits by 61 per cent to Dh2.31 billion ($629 million) in 2011-12 financial year, down from Dh5.9 billion the previous year.

Emirates Group, which operates the world's biggest carrier of international passengers Emirates airline, recorded a 17.8 per cent growth in revenues to Dh67.4 billion, carrying 34 million passengers, an eight per cent increase over the previous year. It maintained a seat load factor of 80 per cent.

However, a 44.4 per cent increase in fuel costs totalling Dh24.3 billion wiped off the gains from revenue growth. Fuel accounted for 40 per cent of the company's costs last year.

Upward trajectory

"Achieving our 24th consecutive year of profit and maintaining an upward growth trajectory is an achievement that belies the industry norm," Shaikh Ahmad Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President of Dubai Civil Aviation and Chairman and Chief Executive of Emirates airline and Group, said in a statement.

"Successful business growth is not a matter of luck, it is the result of sustained and calculated investment.

"Every dirham that we earn is strategically ploughed back into our business and it is this foresight that has allowed the group to maintain such strong and consistent profitability."

The airline, meanwhile, suffered a 71.2 per cent decline in net profits to Dh1.5 billion for the year ended March 31 compared to the previous year's net profit of Dh5.38 billion.

The carrier said in a statement that the stifling cost of jet fuel impacted Emirates' bottom line with the airline's profit sitting significantly lower than the previous year.

Funding expansion

It added that the despite fundamental challenges, the group earned record revenue of Dh67.4 billion, up 17.8 per cent over the previous year.

During the year, Emirates invested Dh14 billion in new products as it added 22 aircraft to the fleet.

At the end of the year, its cash balance grew 9.5 per cent to Dh17.6 billion — providing a much needed cushion to fund its expansion that includes 232 aircraft on order, valued at $84 billion.

Acquisition strategy

Dnata, an Emirates Group unit and a provider of combined air services such as ground handling, cargo, travel, IT solutions and flight catering, made its highest ever profit in 52 years of operation at Dh808 million last fiscal year, on the back of its proven acquisition strategy, the company said.

It added that the unit derived 55 per cent of its revenue from its international operations, an increase of 17 percentage points over the previous year.

Emirates is well positioned to continue its profitability for a 25th consecutive year, according to the US-based aviation analyst Ernest Arvai of The Arvai Group.

"Emirates, having remained resilient during a difficult 2011, appears well positioned to execute its plans for additional growth and profitability in 2012," he told Gulf News.

He added that despite a reduction in profitability, Emirates has strong cash reserves and is well positioned to continue its growth in 2012. The airline's headcount increased 10 per cent to 63,000 employees.

"Emirates was hit like all airlines by fuel price rise, but very good growth in passengers and revenues is still being achieved despite tough market conditions in a number of areas," John Strickland, director of aviation consultancy JLS Consulting told Gulf News.