Etihad Airways' Q1 income climbs 27 pc to $1.4b

Abu Dhabi's Etihad Airways reported today a 27-per cent annual rise in revenues to $1.4 billion for the first quarter of 2014 on the back of surging passenger and cargo figures.

Etihad, which is in advanced talks to buy a stake in Italy's struggling Alitalia, said income from equity partners and codesharing deals increased 23 per cent to $223 million in the first three months of 2014, compared with the same period last year.

The fast-growing Gulf airline declined to say whether it registered any profits or losses in the quarter.

Passenger volumes increased 14 per cent over the same period to 3.2 million, while cargo volumes grew 26 per cent to 127,821 tonnes, said Etihad.

"Organic growth was supported by the development of codeshare and equity partnerships, which delivered 678,000 passengers onto Etihad Airways flights in the first quarter of 2014, 25 per cent higher than the same period last year," it said in a statement.

Etihad carried 11.5 million passengers last year, earning $6.1 billion in revenues, of which it kept $62 million as profit.

Launched in 2003, Etihad is expanding rapidly and has bought minor shares in several smaller carriers around the world as it competes with larger Gulf rivals Emirates and Qatar Airways.

Etihad owns 29 per cent of Air Berlin, 40 per cent of Air Seychelles, 19.9 per cent of Virgin Australia and three per cent of Aer Lingus.

It also owns a 24-per cent stake in India's Jet Airways.

Italy's Transport Minister Maurizio Lupi last week said an assessment of Alitalia's accounts had been completed and hinted an offer from Etihad could be imminent.

The two companies have been in contact since December and in February they said they had entered a "final phase" in the process but Alitalia is laden with debts and negotiations have been hugely complicated.

Etihad is reportedly planning to take a stake of between 40 and 49 per cent in the Italian carrier -- below the 49.9 per cent limit for non-European airlines.

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