March 12, 2019 / 11:50 PM / 5 months ago

Chile's LATAM Airlines beats estimates with $149 million fourth-quarter profit

FILE PHOTO: LATAM Airlines plane is seen at Santiago International Airport, Chile March 30, 2017. Picture taken March 30, 2017. REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado

(Reuters) - LATAM Airlines, the largest carrier in Latin America, reported on Tuesday a net profit of $149 million for the fourth quarter of 2018 and said its full-year results were its best since 2012, when the company was created in its current form.

The results beat estimates of a Refinitiv poll of five analysts that forecast $136 million net income for the quarter.

LATAM’s full-year 2018 profit came in at $182 million, showing the carrier relied heavily on the final months of the year to make up for what was a tough 2018 for airlines in Latin America, which have been hit by weak currencies in emerging markets and high oil prices.

Its main rival in Brazil, Gol Linhas Aereas Inteligentes, posted a loss of 1.1 billion reais ($288.5 million) in 2018.

LATAM said its 2018 results were the best since the creation of the company, which followed the 2012 merger of Chile’s LAN and Brazil’s TAM, which were at the time the largest airlines in their respective countries.

The merger barely preceded a deep recession in Brazil that has had a deep impact in the new company’s balance sheet. Since the merger, Gol has surpassed LATAM as the leader in the Brazilian domestic market, which is by far the largest in South America.

LATAM said in a securities filing it expected to increase its passenger capacity by 4 to 6 percent in 2019, the same growth it projected for 2018.

($1 = 3.8127 reais)

Reporting by Marcelo Rochabrun; Editing by Rosalba O'Brien and Peter Cooney

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