May 9, 2013 3:31 pm

Emirates benefits from expansion

Emirates and Qantas A380 aircraft sit on the tarmac at Kingsford Smith international airport in Sydney©Reuters

Emirates airline’s net profit surged 52 per cent to $622m in the year to the end of March as the Dubai government-owned carrier underwent its biggest expansion.

Reporting its 25th year of consecutive profits, the Emirates group, which includes its airport handling unit, reported net profit of $845m for the year ending March 31, up 34 per cent on the previous period.

While Europe’s legacy carriers are retrenching, the Dubai-based airline continued to grow from its well-placed Gulf base, maintaining its edge against regional competitors Abu Dhabi’s Etihad and Qatar Airways.

Group revenues grew 17 per cent to $21.2bn. Its cash balance grew 53 per cent to $7.3bn.

The airline, which has signed a five-year partnership deal with Qantas, carried a record 39.4m passengers, up 16 per cent on the previous year.

Emirates’ relentless growth – the proceeds of which have been reinvested into the city’s infrastructure – has been central to Dubai’s recovery from its damaging debt crisis three years ago. The company said profits returned to its shareholder, the government, rose 34 per cent to reach $845m.

“Every dirham that we earn is strategically placed back into our business,” said Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, chairman, explaining the group’s “strong and consistent profitability under challenging circumstances”.

Seat factor was 80 per cent for the third year, as the ratio of used to available capacity remained steady as the airline increased capacity 44 per cent since 2010.

In the largest capacity increase of the airline’s history, it added 34 new aircraft and 10 new destinations as Emirates forms the centrepiece of Dubai’s bid to become a global aviation hub.

The airline raised more than $7.8bn in new funding, largely for fleet expansion.

The group invested $3.8bn during the year, receiving 34 new wide-bodied aircraft, including 20 Boeing 777-300ERs and 10 Airbus A380s. It has another 198 aircraft on order worth $71bn.

Emirates late last year also opened the world’s tallest hotel in Dubai, the JW Marriott Marquis Hotel, as it continued to expand the brand beyond airport-related services.

New destinations included Ho Chi Minh City, Barcelona, Erbil, Iraq and Washington. Plans for new routes this financial year include Haneda in Tokyo, Clark in the Philippines, Stockholm, and Milan to New York.

Staff count rose 12 per cent to 68,000, the group said. Operating costs rose 16 per cent, with jet fuel making up about 40 per cent, damping profitability.

At Emirates’ cargo business, which contributes 15 per cent of the airline’s revenues, tonnage rose 16 per cent to 2.1m tonnes as revenues grew 8 per cent.

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