Emirates To Expand Fleet, Orders This Year

April 26, 2010

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Dubai airline Emirates plans to expand its fleet and may announce more aircraft orders later this year, its chairman said on Sunday.

"I'm sure you'll be hearing more announcements during this year on maybe more aircraft to come to Emirates, or signing new aircraft to be bought by Emirates," Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed al-Maktoum said in an interview with Dubai One television.

Sheikh Ahmed also said the carrier was ready to launch an initial public offering whenever the Dubai government gave it the green light.

The Arab world's biggest carrier said last week it was losing USD$10 million per day due to flight disruptions caused by ash from an Icelandic volcano.

Sheikh Ahmed said Emirates should make up the loss incurred.

Emirates, whose fiscal year ends March 31, is expected to report full-year results in the first week of May.

The airline's chairman said Emirates' result last year "was very excellent." He did not elaborate.

"Our reserve cash flow is excellent, so I don't see any problem within Emirates and the Emirates Group in total."

The airline's revenues fell 13.5 percent in the first half of 2009 on lower passenger and cargo yields. However, net profit jumped 165 percent in the period ending September 30 to AED752 million dirhams (USD$204.7 million).

Emirates, the largest customer for the Airbus A380 superjumbo, expects to take delivery of 11 aircraft in 2010.

Sheikh Ahmed reiterated that funding the carrier's aircraft purchases was not an issue.

One of Dubai's prize assets, Emirates in December raised USD$1.13 billion from Citibank, backed by a guarantee from the European Export Credit Agencies, and a second loan from Doric Asset to finance six aircraft.

The chairman told the channel that he saw realistic fuel prices of up to USD$90 a barrel.

"The airline will always see the reasonable price should be between USD$80-USD$90," he said.

Emirates has grown to be the world's 10th-largest airline by scheduled passenger-kilometres flown, according to IATA. Excluding domestic flights, it is the world's fourth-largest airline.

The airline's chairman said in November, discussions were ongoing with Airbus and Boeing for new plane orders which could number in the "tens of planes". The airline already has orders worth USD$55 billion with the two manufacturers.

The carrier, which started in 1985 with two planes, has grown to rival airlines such as Qantas Airways and Singapore Airlines for passenger traffic between Europe and East Asia.

(Reuters)