South African Airways stays profitable despite hard year

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South African Airways has posted a full-year group pre-tax profit of R596 million ($83 million), an increase of more than 40% despite difficult trading conditions.

Its net profit was up by 45% to R581 million for the year ending 31 March.

South African Airways transported 2.4% fewer passengers, a total of 6.7 million, although regional passenger numbers rose during the period.

Its revenues declined by 15% to R22.3 billion but was almost matched by a 14% fall in operating costs to R21 billion - a fall due largely to a R3.5 billion cut in its fuel bill, as well as lower leasing costs.

The carrier says the slip in income "underlined the importance" of its approach to containing expenditure.

South African Airways' new chief, Siza Mzimela, says the year was "exceptionally challenging" but that the airline, despite falling passenger numbers, managed to turn in "positive financial results".

Hedging losses fell sharply from more than R1 billion to R120 million, while the carrier's operational cash-generation improved from a R1.8 billion deficit during 2008-09 to a positive flow of R1.7 billion.