Arik posts $16 million third-quarter operating profit

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Nigerian carrier Arik Air is optimistic about its full-year performance after posting a $16 million EBITDA profit for the first nine months of 2009.

Rapidly-expanding Arik Air, which launched operations in 2006, is finalising its results for its 2008 financial year which ended in December.

Speaking to ATI in London, Arik Air managing director Michael Arumemi-Ikhide declined to give any indications about the full-year results, but he said: "We are certainly well ahead of our three-year start-up cycle and we are just approaching break-even."

By the end of the third quarter, he says, the carrier had a $16 million EBITDA.

Late last year Arik launched its first intercontinental service, Lagos-London Heathrow. Arumemi-Ikhide says: "We won't breakeven on long-haul, but we are well ahead of our projected calculations."

Although Nigeria is a cash economy, its businesses have not been insulated from the global downturn. Arumemi-Ikhide says: "It is too premature to distinguish the recessionary effects from the typical first quarter slow-down."

He adds that demand has not softened on Arik's domestic and regional flights, owing to air transport under-capacity in Nigeria and the inadequacy of other transport modes. Arumemi-Ikhide claims that Arik has secured 41% of the Nigerian domestic and regional market, compared with 25% for its nearest rival.

"There is huge demand for services and irrespective of the global downturn uptake is still very strong. We are still going ahead with our plans. Africa is very well placed for development. It is a greenfield territory," says Arumemi-Ikhide.

Arik is planning to focus on the development and consolidation of its domestic and regional network. "That is going to be the lifeline of our international network. Connections and an onward feeder network will be the key to Arik's long-term success," says Arumemi-Ikhide.

"We have been aggressive, very aggressive with our schedule. We have a very good roll-out plan for 2009 and we are focusing on building that on very solid foundations."