QANTAS AIRWAYS reports a profit increase of nearly 80% over the first half of its financial year, clearing the way for the Australian Government to sell its remaining 75% stake.

The results, likely to be the last before the long-awaited share flotation, shows a net profit of A$129 million ($95 million) for the six months to the end of December. Sales were increased by 9.5%.

Performance was boosted by an increase of more than 2% in yields across the network. At the same time, Qantas claims to have avoided any significant dilution of its load factors, despite a 10% increase in capacity. "This was an excellent achievement," says Qantas chairman Gary Pemberton.

The airline's domestic operations showed a marked improvement, despite earlier concerns over the intensive competition coming from privately owned Ansett. Domestic services contributed an operating profit of $A51 million following a 24% growth in revenues.

Qantas says that it is also beginning to see gains from its alliance with British Airways, through joint marketing and purchasing operations. BA took a 25% stake in Qantas in March 1993 during the first phase of the carrier's privatisation.

The sale of the remaining shares has been progressively delayed as Qantas has undergone a change of senior management and a major restructuring.

With a steady improvement in the group's financial position over the last 18 months, a Government decision is now expected shortly on the A$1.6 billion flotation.

Source: Flight International