Poland's LOT cites Dreamliner for shift into net profit

WARSAW, April 2 Wed Apr 2, 2014 8:18am EDT

WARSAW, April 2 (Reuters) - Poland's flag carrier LOT closed last year in the black for the first time since 2008, listing restructuring and what it called the "Dreamliner effect" as the main reasons for the surprise shift, LOT said on Wednesday.

The state-controlled airline, which has struggled for years with huge losses, had big hopes for Boeing's 787 Dreamliner jet, expected to be a game-changer for the aviation industry.

Instead, a number of problems haunted the 787, with LOT - one of the 13 airlines that fly the jets - estimating its own costs of Dreamliner problems at 100 million zlotys ($33 million) over 2012 and 2013.

However, LOT also saw the jets as the reason behind a pick-up in popularity of its long-route flights. The airline calculated the Dreamliner brought in 95 million zlotys last year, helping it shift to a net profit of 26 million zlotys.

Unlisted LOT, which is seeking compensation for its Dreamliner problems, booked a net loss of 400 million zlotys in 2012, hit also by a writedown on the value of its property.

The ongoing overhaul, truncated connection grid, head-count reductions, and stiff market competition translated into a loss of four million zlotys at the operating level last year.

LOT had previously forecast a net loss of 196 million for 2013 and a 142 million loss at the operating level.

The 85-year-old airline, one of the world's oldest, has struggled to compete with bigger networks such as Lufthansa , or low-cost competitors like Ryanair, and expected to turn profitable no sooner than this year.

LOT has been looking for a new investor for years but local regulations, low margins, as well as a European Commission probe into whether Poland broke competition rules with state aid, hampered potential deals.

The carrier flew 4.6 million passengers last year, around five percent fewer year-on-year. Its plans for 2014 include booking a profit on core business of around 70 million zlotys and providing details regarding a potential investor. ($1 = 3.0290 Polish Zlotys) (Reporting by Adrian Krajewski; editing by Keiron Henderson)