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Air Canada tops estimates as margins jump

Air Canada’s profit more than doubled in 2017 as it flew a record number of passengers on an expanded network.

Canada’s largest airline said Friday morning it added 30 routes in 2017 – 15 international – and boosted passenger revenue by 10 per cent to $14.5-billion.

Air Canada’s 2017 profit was $2.04-billion, or $7.34 a share, compared with $876-million, or $3.10 a share, in 2016.

In the fourth quarter of 2017, profit was $8-million or 2 cents a share, compared with a net loss of $179-million, or 66 cents a share, in the year-earlier quarter. “I’m pleased to report 2017 was a record year for Air Canada,” Calin Rovinescu, Air Canada chief executive officer, said on a conference call with analysts on Friday morning.

Fadi Chamoun, a stock analyst at Bank of Montreal, said Air Canada’s fourth-quarter results were better than he expected. He said the 2018 forecast for costs per available seat mile, a closely watched industry gauge, is higher than expected. But rising revenues per seat mile and projected profit margins, before some costs, of 17 to 20 per cent are reassuring, he said in a note to clients.

After the results were released on Friday morning, investors drove up the price of Air Canada shares by more than 2 per cent on the Toronto Stock Exchange. The stock price has risen by about 80 per cent in the past 12 months, but has fallen by about 10 per cent from a high reached in October.

The share price “has been under pressure largely due to concern that [revenue per available seat mile] growth might not be strong enough to offset rising fuel costs. These results and guidance should alleviate these concerns,” Mr. Chamoun said.

Air Canada’s international expansion included flights from Montreal to Shanghai, Toronto to Mumbai and Vancouver to Melbourne.

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