ALMATY Feb. 5 (The Conway Bulletin) — Air Astana, the Kazakh national airline that is preparing for an IPO this year, posted full-year results for 2017 that showed revenue growth of 22% and a profit of $39.1m.
The results will be a relief for Kazakh government officials after the airline, which is 51% owned by Kazakh sovereign wealth fund Samruk Kazyna and 49% by BAE Systems, posted a loss in 2016 for the first time.
In a statement, Air Astana CEO Peter Foster said that EXPO 2017, the international exposition hosted by Astana for three months from June, and a rise in the number of transit passengers using the new terminal at Nazarbayev Airport, also in Astana, had driven the growth.
“Transit business grew by 58% and is now 12% of total business. Our comparatively low unit cost has enabled us to successfully grow this business segment by being competitive in key overseas markets, such as Russia, China, India and the EU, and smaller high growth markets such as Ukraine, Georgia and Uzbekistan,” he said.
Revenue in 2017 was $754m and passenger numbers were 4.2m, up 12%.
Air Astana was incorporated in 2001, flying its first flights in 2002 and replacing the Soviet-tinged Air Kazakhstan as the national flag carrier.
Air Astana has also become vital for linking Kazakhstan with the rest of the world as a handful of major airlines, including KLM and British Airways, have dropped flying to Almaty or Astana.
Mr Foster, the Air Astana CEO, said that the company would continue to grow in 2018 but that costs were rising. “Cost control, whilst maintaining quality standards, will be the key challenge in the coming period,” he said.
Air Astana, alongside the high-profile atomic agency Kazatomprom and Kazakhtelecom, is part of a clutch of state-owned companies that Kazakhstan is selling off this year on the new Astana Stock Exchange and on an international exchange.
–This story was first published on Feb. 6 in issue 360 of the weekly Conway Bulletin