Air Berlin profits slump in third quarter

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Air Berlin, Germany's number two airline, said on Thursday earnings nosedived in the third quarter owing to an aviation tax introduced at the start of the year and a slump in business to North Africa.

Air Berlin said in a statement it booked net profit of 30.2 million euros ($40.7 million) in the period from July to September, down from 135.9 million euros a year earlier.

Underlying profits, as measured by earnings before interest and tax (EBIT), slumped 43.6 percent to 96.8 million euros, while revenue rose 10.8 percent to 1.375 billion euros.

"As the largest German North Africa line, the downturn in tourism following the political unrest in Egypt and Tunisia has hit us particularly hard," chief executive Hartmut Mehdorn said.

"Furthermore, the aviation tax introduced in Germany at the beginning of the year is burdening us to an above-average extent. The tax distorts competition, is economically harmful and makes no sense in ecological terms as it does not take carbon emissions into account," Mehdorn said.

As from January 1, a tax was imposed on all flights departing from Germany.

Air Berlin sees it as discriminatory to carriers like itself that has a large number of domestic German flights and flights to European destinations.

Taking the first nine months, Air Berlin's net loss widened to 134.3 million euros from 14.6 million euros a year earlier, EBIT swung to a loss of 123.7 million euros from a profit of 37.4 million euros a year earlier, while revenues were up 16.5 percent at 3.273 billion euros.

Looking ahead to the full year, the company said that while total revenues "are epxected to exceed the previous year's level, we will not be able to return to a positive EBIT figure in the current financial year."

In light of the current volatile economic environment, it is difficult to make a further a more detailed forecast, Air Berlin said.

© 2011 AFP

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