Middle East Airlines (MEA) achieved an operating profit of US$40 million in 2011, compared to $90 million in 2010, it has been reported.
The sharp decline was attributed to the soaring cost of fuel, in addition to salary increases for employees, deteriorating market conditions in the region, and mounting competition from Arab airlines, according to MEA chairman Mohammad Hout.
“These factors contributed to the fall in profits last year but we expect the picture to change this year if the price of oil becomes more stable,” Hout told The Daily Star, adding that MEA’s passenger numbers had increased by 15-20 percent in the first four months of 2012.
Lebanon-based Middle East Airlines, which is mainly owned by the Central Bank, was expected to list 25 percent of its shares on the Beirut Stock Exchange, although the plans have been delayed as a result of political unrest in the region.
Hout did, however, confirm that MEA was considering a possible acquisition of Cypriot Airways, with official discussions set to commence shortly.