DURBAN - Listed aviation and travel company Comair continued to improve on its record haul last year, posting a 6percent increase in revenue for the six months to December despite volatility in the market.

In a year dominated by low economic growth, Comair lifted its revenue to R3.3billion, from R3.1bn in the corresponding period last year.

Financial director Kirsten King said the results could have been better if the economy had grown between 2percent and 5percent a year.

“There is a lot going on currently, and the market is responding positively. However, we must aim for between 2percent and 5percent economic growth before we can see passenger market showing some improvement,” King said.

The company said its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (Ebitda) increased to R604million from R575m.

Profit after taxation was R203m, improving by R4m compared with last year’s R199m.

Headline earnings a share and earnings per share were 43.6cents, up from 42.8c.

The group said operating expenses increased 5percent in the face of local inflationary pressure and higher fuel prices arising from a stronger oil price, which was only partially offset by the strengthening of the rand.

It said further gains arose from the translation of the dollar-denominated aircraft loan as the rand made some headway to close at R12.36 to the dollar as at December 31, down from R13.73 a year earlier.

Comair chief executive Erik Venter said: “We are very pleased with the results, which have been achieved despite a volatile economy and surplus capacity which restricts occupancy levels below international standards.”

The group said its non-airline business continued to grow steadily, with non-airline revenue increasing by 11.6percent and non-airline Ebitda increasing by 20percent, resulting in an overall contribution of 13percent to profit from operations for the group.

Venter said the investment in two major aspects of the company’s operations helped to offset the constraints experienced by the local airline sector.

“Firstly, the fleet renewal programme enables Comair’s two airline brands, and British Airways (operated by Comair), to operate more competitively than airlines operating older, less fuel-efficient aircraft, while enhancing customers’ experience,” he said.

Comair shares were 2.48percent lower on the JSE yesterday to close at R5.50.