Iberia Fourth-Quarter Net Loss Widens

Spanish airline Iberia's fourth-quarter losses widened slightly amid continued pressures from higher operating and fuel costs, the company said Tuesday.

Spain's largest airline by sales said its fourth-quarter net loss stood at 9.4 million euros ($12.37 million), compared to a loss of 5.8 million euros a year earlier.

For the whole of 2006, Iberia reported a net profit of 56.7 million euros ($74.62 million), down from a net profit of 395.8 million euros a year earlier. Results for 2005 had been bolstered by the sale of its stake in travel reservations company Amadeus Global Travel Distribution.

Iberia said operating costs widened 4.4% in the fourth quarter to 1.33 billion euros ($1.75 billion), with fuel costs widening close to 20% to 317.8 million euros ($418.22 million).

Iberia has faced intense competition from low-cost airlines easyJet and Ryanair Holdings after both companies increased operations in Spain. It is now focusing on long-haul routes and the introduction of a new business service to capture a larger slice of these lucrative market segments.

Iberia said fourth-quarter revenue rose 7.8% to 1.37 billion euros ($1.8 billion). For the whole of 2006, revenue rose more than 10% to 5.46 billion euros ($7.19 billion).

Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, amortization and aircraft rentals, or Ebitdar - Iberia's preferred measure of profitability - were 36% higher at 214.7 million euros ($282.55 million).

For the full year, Ebitdar rose 13% to 790.6 million euros ($1.04 billion).

Shares were down 4.5% at 3.17 euros ($4.17).