Mumbai: India’s biggest private airline Jet Airways, which is in final talks for a stake sale to Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways, on Friday swung into a quarterly net profit from a net loss a year ago.

Jet reported a net profit of Rs850 million rupees (Dh59 million, $16.03 million) in the third quarter ended December, from a net loss of Rs1.01 billion a year earlier, aided by rising fares and lowering costs.

The results beat expectations, with analysts forecasting a profit of Rs275 million for the quarter.

“All our efforts on revenues, costs and networks has resulted in turning around operations,” Jet chief executive Nikos Kardassis said, commenting on the first profit since the April-June quarter of 2012.

Sales grew 6.6 per cent to Rs42.06 billion.

Jet said it cut several of its loss-making flights and redeployed aircraft to profitable routes.

Etihad stake

Etihad is likely to pick up a stake in Jet, which would be the first in India’s aviation sector, after the government in September said it allowed overseas airlines to take up to a 49 per cent stake in domestic operators.

Jet, owned by Indian tycoon Naresh Goyal — a former travel agent — is among the carriers that have gained passengers from the grounded Kingfisher Airlines.

Kingfisher, controlled by liquor baron Vijay Mallya, owes billions of dollars to banks, airports, employees and tax authorities. It lost its licence to fly this year and is desperate for fresh investment to restart operations.

Indian carriers need money to fund expansion and cut debt after several years of losses caused by fierce price battles and rising fuel costs.

Only one of India’s six main scheduled carriers — privately held low-cost carrier IndiGo — was in profit last year, helped by a strict business plan and on-time performance.