SYDNEY (AP) — Qantas Airways Ltd. on Tuesday reported that its latest half-year profit had more than trebled to a record 688 million Australian dollars ($497 million) on the back of low fuel prices and a falling Australian dollar.
The Australian airline's net profit for the six months through December was up 239 percent on AU$203 million for the previous corresponding half year, boosted by the AU$448 million saved through hedging on lower fuel prices.
Qantas also approved a AU$500 million share buyback starting in March.
The Sydney-based company attributed AU$261 million in cost and revenue benefits to its ongoing restructuring.
Underlying profit before tax was AU$921 million, in the upper end of the airline's guidance of AU$875 million to AU$925 million.
Qantas opted against paying an interim dividend and instead will hand over cash to shareholders in the form of a buyback to start in March.
"The strength of our performance and balance sheet means we can continue to reward our shareholders for their confidence in our business," chairman Alan Joyce said.
The airline already handed back the vast majority of the AU$557 million full year net profit announced in August to shareholders in the form of a AU23 cents per share cash distribution.
The weak Australian currency was driving a surge in inbound tourism, Joyce said. Qantas had responded by increasing capacity, particularly on North American and Asian routes.
Qantas posted a $409 million full-year profit last year, in a dramatic turnaround from the $2.6 billion loss the previous year.