Iberia in profit ahead of BA merger

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Iberia, which is about to merge with British Airways, recorded a 74 million euro profit in the third quarter of the year, the Spanish carrier announced on Friday.

In third quarter 2009, Iberia suffered a loss of 16.4 million euros (22.6 million dollars) as the global economic slump savaged the airline industry but it returned to profit in the second quarter of this year, snapping a run of six consecutive losses.

Revenues rose to 1.34 billion euros in the third quarter from 1.17 billion in the year-ago period, boosted by a rise in passenger traffic on its more profitable long-haul routes.

The load factor -- the average percentage of seats filled with paying passengers -- increased to 85.6 percent from 82.1 percent.

While passenger traffic in Spain, where Iberia faces fierce competition from low-cost rivals like Ryanair and high-speed trains, fell 5.6 percent, it was up 15 percent on long-haul routes, mostly to Latin America.

Iberia is the market leader in flights between Europe and Latin America.

For the nine months to September, the company reported a net profit of 53 million euros, recovering from a net loss of 182 million euros a year earlier.

In April, Iberia and British Airways finalised a merger which will create Europe's second-biggest airline by market value after Germany's Lufthansa.

The deal should be completed by January next year after shareholders approve the move in November.

© 2010 AFP

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