March 29, 2018 / 1:54 PM / a year ago

China Eastern Airlines posts 41 pct profit leap

SHANGHAI, March 29 (Reuters) - China Eastern Airlines lifted annual profit to its highest level in more than 20 years, helped by a stronger yuan, improved passenger yields and asset sales.

China’s second-largest airline by passenger numbers said that profit attributable to shareholders rose by 40.9 percent year on year to 6.35 billion yuan ($1 billion), the highest since at least 1996, Thomson Reuters data shows.

This was, however, lower than the 6.47 billion yuan average forecast from 16 analysts polled by Thomson Reuters.

The airline’s revenue rose 3.2 percent to 101.72 billion yuan, helped by a 9.3 percent rise in revenue passenger kilometres, a measure of passenger traffic, and 0.2 percent rise in passenger yields.

The company also said financing expenses had fallen sharply thanks to the yuan’s appreciation against the U.S. dollar.

China Eastern and its rivals had suffered heavy losses in 2016 from exchange rate fluctuations because most of the loans they took to buy new aircraft were denominated in U.S. dollars.

Its competitors Air China and China Southern Airlines also missed anlayst expectations this week despite rising earnings. ($1 = 6.2850 Chinese yuan renminbi)

Reporting by Brenda Goh Editing by Himani Sarkar and David Goodman

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