Air New Zealand full-year profit falls less than expected
WELLINGTON Aug 30 (Reuters) - Air New Zealand on Thursday posted a 12 percent fall in net profit for the 2012 year and said it expected to more than double earnings next year, as the national carrier battles high fuel costs while passenger numbers pick up.
The company, which has been struggling to pass on higher fuel costs to its passengers, reported a net profit after tax of NZ$71 million ($56.9 million) from NZ$81 million a year ago but higher than market forecasts for around NZ$56 million, according to a Thomson Reuters poll.
The company declared a final dividend of 3.5 cents per share, compared with 2.5 cents last year.
Normalised profit before tax, which excludes fluctuations in fuel hedging, rose to NZ$91 million from NZ$75 million a year ago.
It had previously advised passenger numbers were fractionally higher in the year to June, with more flying on its Australian and Pacific services but fewer on its Asia, North American and European flights.
Air New Zealand shares, around 73 percent owned by the government, closed on Wednesday at NZ$0.895. They are flat so far this year compared to an 11 percent climb in the benchmark NZX-50 index.
The carrier has taken a near 20 percent stake in Australian carrier Virgin Australia, with whom it has a commercial alliance, to combat aggressive competition from Australian carrier Qantas and its low cost offshoot Jetstar on routes between the two countries.
In June, the airline said it would slash domestic fares to get more passengers.
Air NZ chief executive Rob Fyfe is leaving at the end of the year and will be replaced by the current group manager international, Christopher Luxon.
Air New Zealand is one of five state owned assets, in which the New Zealand government is planning to sell minority stakes to raise up to NZ$7 billion so it can return to a budget surplus by 2015.
However, the government has said Air NZ will likely be one of the last sales and will be dependent on market conditions. ($1 = 1.2470 New Zealand dollars) (Reporting by Naomi Tajitsu)
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