Aerolineas plots regional growth

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Fresh from court administration, Aerolineas Argentinas is reporting its first profit in five years and plans to copy a successful Latin growth model by launching new regional units in neighbouring countries.

Its $13 million net profit for 2002, compared with a loss of $392 million in 2001 and of $410 million a year earlier, parallels the airline's recovery since its takeover by the Air Comet Spanish consortium in late 2001. Together with its local subsidiary Austral, Aerolineas has boosted its domestic market share from 22% to 59%, doubled the number of its international flights, and is now forecasting a 2003 net profit of around $35 million.

Besides merging Austral into the main airline, its other ambitious plan for this year is to launch into neighbouring markets, starting mid-year with Chile. It will follow a model successfully pioneered by LanChile and Grupo Taca: creating new carriers under a common brand, in which it holds a substantial minority stake but with sympathetic local owners. Aerolineas has not revealed what name it will use, but it is likely to be Aerolineas Chile, Aerolineas Bolivia, and so forth. It plans similar units in Uruguay and Paraguay.