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The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Air New Zealand posts record half-year profit, up 40 per cent on slightly lower revenues

WELLINGTON, New Zealand - New Zealand's national airline on Thursday posted a record first-half profit on slightly lower revenues.

Air New Zealand said after-tax profit increased by 40 per cent to 140 million New Zealand dollars (US$116 million) when compared to the same period last year. Revenue was down 1.6 per cent to NZ$2.3 billion.

Chief Executive Christopher Luxon was bullish about the company's prospects. In a release, he said New Zealand and many of the airline's key markets in Asia and the South Pacific are poised for strong financial growth in the coming years. He said the carrier's capacity will grow by 8 per cent over the next financial year as it adds planes, including new Boeing 787-9s.

In its shareholder report, the company said the revenue decrease was driven by foreign exchange movements. It also noted it had pared back some international routes that weren't profitable.

The company said it had increased its stake in Virgin Australia to 24.5 per cent and expects to benefit from growth on domestic Australian routes.

The move comes at a time that Australian flag carrier Qantas is struggling. Qantas on Thursday announced plans to cut 5,000 jobs after posting a first-half loss of 235 million Australian dollars ($211 million).

Air New Zealand is 53 per cent owned by the New Zealand government and is also publicly traded. Its shares were up 1.1 per cent to NZ$1.77 in early trading Thursday.

The airline has gained international attention for its quirky inflight safety videos, which have featured actress Betty White, hobbits, and, most recently, Sports Illustrated swimsuit models.

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