Hilary Joffe Columnist

In a year in which two big European airlines (Alitalia and Air Berlin) went bust and in which our own South African Airways (SAA) is so insolvent and so cash-starved that it’s struggling to pay suppliers, it’s quite startling to see a soaring 54% increase in profit from an airline company. That is the number that JSE-listed Comair reported for its year to end-June, a year in which its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (ebitda) went beyond R1bn for the first time, and cash generated increased by 28%. Admittedly, much of the bounce came from a return to normality after 2016’s foreign currency losses on a dollar loan and the closing out of its oil hedges. But the underlying results weren’t too bad either, with the group again increasing its revenue faster than its costs to boost its narrow profit margins and lifting the contribution from its nonairline businesses to 20% of earnings.In a tough industry, Comair is one of the few with an unbroken record of profi...

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