ANA swings back to black with $457mn profit

TOKYO, Jan 31, 2011 (AFP) - Japan's All Nippon Airways (ANA) Monday said it swung back into the black in the nine months to December as surging travel demand and cost-cutting helped boost its profitability.

A pick-up in the global economy and new routes from Tokyo's Haneda airport, which in October returned to fully fledged international operations, lifted demand but high oil prices were a worry, it said.

AFP - A woman walks past a picture showing a Japan's All Nippon Airways (ANA) Boeing 747 at its headquarters in Tokyo on January 31, 2011.

The carrier reported a group net profit of 37.5 billion yen ($457 million) in the nine months to December, reversing a year-before loss of 35.2 billion yen, citing strong demand in both business and leisure travel.

In the three months ended December, ANA made a 24.2 billion yen net profit.

"In the domestic flight division, demand among both business and leisure customers saw a healthy increase," said ANA chief executive Eiji Kanazawa. "Also in international flight and cargo divisions, demand grew firmly."

The launch customer for Boeing's delayed 787 Dreamliner jet, ANA also reported an operating profit of 77.7 billion yen in the nine months, turning around a year-earlier loss of 37.8 billion yen.

Revenue rose 12.5 percent to 1.04 trillion yen.

The pick-up compares with the year-earlier period in which the aviation sector faced turbulence from the double whammy of a global financial crisis and the outbreak of A H1N1 influenza, which hit world demand for air travel.

Kanazawa said profits were helped as the carrier moved to boost capacity to take advantage of new slots at Tokyo's Haneda airport, helping drive both cargo and passenger numbers higher.

Tokyo's Haneda airport opened a new runway and passenger terminal in October to make it the city's second international hub.

The airport close to the city centre previously offered only domestic flights and some short-haul routes to East Asia, leaving it in the shadow of Narita International Airport outside the capital.

ANA has previously said it aims to begin a low-cost service out of Kansai International Airport, Osaka, in the second half of 2011 as it looks to capitalise on Japan's efforts to attract more big-spending Chinese tourists.

But the carrier left its earnings forecasts for the full year to March unchanged, projecting net profit at 6.0 billion yen and operating profit at 70 billion yen on revenue of 1.38 trillion yen.

ANA said "the economic climate remains challenging with steep rises in crude oil prices, concerns over the outlook for growth in overseas economies, and exchange rate fluctuations."

It added that it expected that "competition with other airlines and the Shinkansen bullet train will intensify during the fourth quarter and beyond."

ANA is the inaugural customer for Boeing's high-tech 787 Dreamliner, which is now due in the third quarter of this year after a series of delays, and has 55 aircraft on order.

A recent open skies agreement between the US and Japan has enabled ANA to cooperate with United Continental.

United Continental was created from the all-stock merger of United Airlines and Continental Airlines in October that created the world's biggest carrier.

ANA shares closed down 1.31 percent in Tokyo ahead of the earnings announcement. 

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