November 15, 2017 / 11:03 PM / a year ago

UPDATE 1-LATAM Airlines posts higher-than-expected quarterly profit

(Adds details on revenue, seat availability forecasts)

SANTIAGO, Nov 15 (Reuters) - LATAM Airlines, Latin America’s largest airline, posted a higher-than-expected third-quarter profit on Wednesday as the economies of regional markets recovered.

The company reported net income of $161 million for the July through September period, up from $5 million a year earlier. Analysts in a Reuters poll had forecast profit of $91 million.

Total revenue rose 5 percent year on year to $2.645 billion “due to yields improvement across all markets,” LATAM said. Operating margin increased 3.2 percentage points from a year earlier to 9.2 percent.

LATAM, which is based in Santiago, maintained its operating margin guidance for the year at between 6 and 8 percent.

The company was formed through the merger of Chile’s LAN and Brazil’s TAM in 2012.

LATAM added that ASK growth, or available seat kilometers, is expected to be 1 to 2 percent in 2017. Broken down, ASKs are expected to fall 3 percent in Brazil and grow 1 to 2 percent in domestic Spanish-speaking countries. Internationally they are seen growing 4 to 5 percent. (Reporting by Felipe Iturrieta, Caroline Stauffer; Editing by Chris Reese)

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