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BA beams as profit takes off
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British Airways Plc, Europe's third-biggest carrier, boosted nine-month profit 22 percent and said yesterday business travel on long-haul routes is holding up even as demand for shorter flights declines and fuel costs increase.


Net income through December 31 advanced to 623 million pounds (US$1.24 billion), or 53.3 pence a share, from 509 million pounds, or 43.8 pence, a year earlier, the London-based company said in a statement.


Revenue rose one percent to 6.62 billion pounds, Bloomberg News reported.


Chief Executive Officer Willie Walsh said sales should gain at least three percent this fiscal year and that a record 10 percent operating margin is still achievable as premium traffic to the United States and Asia remains "strong."


While cost cuts will offset the rising price of oil this year, fuel expenses will become more of a burden in 2009, Walsh said.


"They're flagging that fuel costs next year will be challenging and they're signaling that non-premium in some of their markets is weakening," said Gert Zonneveld, an analyst at Panmure Gordon in London with a "buy" rating on the shares. "Still, today's numbers are encouraging."


British Airways shares were trading down six pence, or 1.8 percent, at 326 pence as of 9:08am in London yesterday, paring gains this year to 5.3 percent and giving the company a market value of 3.76 billion pounds.


"This is another good set of results despite soaring fuel costs and difficulties in the market," Walsh said.


(Shanghai Daily February 3, 2008)


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