UAE's Air Arabia posts 6% rise in Q4 net profit

Low-cost airline says bottom line helped by rise in passenger numbers in late 2012

UAE budget carrier Air Arabia reported a 6 percent rise in fourth quarter net profit on Saturday, helped by a rise in passenger numbers but still short of forecasts.

Air Arabia earned a net profit of AED83m ($22.6m), up from AED77.5m in the same period last year, the airline said in a statement.

The earnings fell short of estimates of analysts polled by Reuters who expected an average profit of AED91.7m.

Revenues for the quarter rose 18 percent year-on-year to AED755m, Air Arabia said.

In 2012, Air Arabia carried more than 5.3 million passengers, compared with 4.7 million in 2011.

Sharjah-based Air Arabia is the only publicly listed carrier operating out of the UAE, which is also home to Dubai government-owned Emirates and Abu Dhabi's Etihad Airways.

It competes with other budget carriers like flydubai and Kuwait's Jazeera Airways in challenging market conditions in the region. Bahrain Air announced plans to shut down on Tuesday, blaming political unrest in Bahrain and continuing debt woes.

Air Arabia also has hubs in Egypt and Morocco.

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