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Thu 28 Jan 2010 05:06 PM

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Jazeera Airways eyes buys in aviation sector

Kuwaiti carrier expects to be profitable in 2010, after losses for first 9 months of 2009.

Jazeera Airways eyes buys in aviation sector
BUDGET CARRIER: In October, Jazeera said it was looking at buying a low-cost airline in the Middle East region. (Getty Images)

Kuwaiti low-cost carrier Jazeera Airways said it was eyeing acquisitions in firms and airlines in the Middle East and expected to be profitable in 2010, after posting a loss for the first nine months of 2009.Chief executive Stefan Pichler told Reuters on Thursday the company was also looking at setting up a second hub focusing on non-Gulf Arab countries and expected to make a decision in the first half of the year.

"We are making progress there ... the non-GCC countries are more attractive than Gulf states because of demographics and the market is undersupplied," he said in an interview.

Jazeera, which competes with United Arab Emirates-based carriers Air Arabia and flydubai, has a firm order for 29 Airbus A320 aircraft and currently operates 11 planes across the Middle East and Egypt.

In October, it said it was looking at buying a low-cost airline in the Middle East region.

"With our acquisition strategy, we are still actively pursuing opportunities in the aviation sector," he said. "This includes airlines but also companies across the value chain -- leasing, maintenance, and training companies."

Jazeera Airways wants to expand into areas that will support its core business, reduce costs and life revenues, Pichler said.

Pichler said the company would look at building its second hub in partnership a regional carrier, and any potential acquisition would likely occur in that second hub.

"Secondary hubs cannot be built by yourself alone ... you need a domestic national partner," he said.

Middle Eastern airlines saw the highest growth rate in air passenger traffic globally for 2009 -- 11.2 percent -- as carriers snapped up long-haul connecting traffic, international air traffic body IATA said on Wednesday.

Pichler declined to say whether the company would post a profit for 2009, but said he was optimistic about this year.

"We expect to be profitable in 2010," he said.

EFG-Hermes estimates the airline's fourth-quarter net profit at 2 million dinars.

In 2010, the airline will focus on existing destinations, adding frequencies and strengthening its position in the Middle East and Egypt, Pichler said.

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