Argentinian flag carrier Aerolíneas Argentinas managed a pre-tax profit of just over $9 million in the first half of 2003, reinforcing its progressively improving financial state after it shed bankruptcy protection last December.

"We have broken the cycle of negative results," says chief executive Antonio Mata, who now expects the airline to post a profit of $20-30 million for the full year.

Marsans, the Spanish group that controls Aerolíneas Argentinas, is expected later this month to recapitalise the airline by injecting $107.5 million. Mata says a 20% stake in the carrier could be sold to four or five investment groups and negotiations are under way with the aim of reaching an agreement by the end of the year.

Aerolíneas Argentinas' improved financial position will boost its plans to open affiliates in neighbouring countries. The company is prepared to spend up to $30 million and its first target is Chile.

Operating as Aerolíneas Austral, the planned Chile-based subsidiary will use its parent carrier's resources, including one of four Boeing 747-200s earmarked for affiliates.

Source: Flight International