British Airways parent IAG SA reported a first-quarter profit for the first time ever on increased trans-Atlantic business and a continued recovery of its Iberian arm.
The operating profit was 25 million euros ($27.7 million) in what is traditionally the weakest quarter for the company, compared with a loss of 150 million euros a year earlier, Europe’s third-largest carrier said in a statement Thursday. Sales rose 12 percent to 4.71 billion euros, beating analysts’ average estimate of 4.6 billion euros, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Chief Executive Officer Willie Walsh, who is looking to expand trans-Atlantic business by acquiring Ireland’s Aer Lingus Group Plc., said cost discipline at all three of its airlines — British Airways, Spain’s Iberia and discounter Vueling — helped drive productivity and keep expenses down, even as the group increased capacity by 5 percent.
“There was a strong improvement both at a group level and with all three airlines,” Walsh said in the statement, adding that the North American market in particular produced “consistent positive performance.”
IAG reiterated that its full-year operating profit should exceed 2.2 billion euros, compared with 1.39 billion euros in 2014.
IAG didn’t comment on its bid to buy Aer Lingus in the statement. The company is continuing talks to gain approval from the Irish government — which controls 25 percent of the airline — and a decision is likely in “coming weeks,” Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe said Wednesday.
The government rejected an indicative bid earlier this year, saying it couldn’t back the 1.36 billion-euro offer unless Walsh guaranteed links between Heathrow and Ireland for more than five years and clarifies employment prospects.
The executive has told lawmakers that IAG would retain Aer Lingus’s brand and a head office in Dublin after a takeover. He’s also looking to lock in the backing of Ryanair Holdings Plc, which has a 30 percent stake in the Irish carrier.
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