UPDATE 1-WestJet profit rises 71 pct as it flies fuller planes

Wed Feb 6, 2013 8:31am EST

* Raises quarterly dividend to C$0.10 from C$0.08

* Earnings rise to C$0.46/share vs C$0.26 a year earlier

* Revenue rises 10 percent to C$860.6 million

Feb 6 (Reuters) - WestJet Airlines Ltd, Canada's second-largest airline, reported a 71 percent rise in fourth-quarter profit as it added new destinations and flew fuller planes, and raised its quarterly dividend.

The Calgary-based company raised its quarterly dividend by 2 Canadian cents to 10 Canadian cents.

Earnings rose to C$60.9 million ($61 million), or 46 Canadian cents per share, from C$35.6 million, or 26 Canadian cents per share, a year earlier.

Revenue increased 10 percent to C$860.6 million.

Analysts had expected earnings of 42 Canadian cents per share on revenue of C$856.7 million, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Load factor -- the percentage of available seats filled with paying customers -- rose to 81.9 percent for the quarter, from 78.7 percent a year earlier.

WestJet reached a record December load factor of 81.9 percent, up from 80.9 percent a year earlier, as traffic increased 7.2 percent and capacity rose 6 percent.

The airline said it expected its 2013 cost per available seat mile, or CASM, a measure of airline unit costs, to rise up to 2 to 3 percent year over year, excluding fuel and employee profit share costs.

The company said it expected a moderate rise in revenue per available seat miles, or RASM, and margin expansion in the current quarter.

WestJet shares, which have gained about 40 percent over the last six months, closed at C$22.5 on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Tuesday.

FILED UNDER: