Korean Air's net profit triples in Q4

Korean Air said Friday that its net profit in the fourth quarter to December tripled from a year ago, as gains on foreign exchange helped mask an operating loss.

Consolidated net profit in the period soared to 140.2 billion won ($129 million) from 44.5 billion won a year ago, the airline said.

Sales fell 3.4 percent to 3.08 trillion won and the national flag carrier reported an operating loss of 17.6 billion won, largely due to a sharp decline in travel demand from Japan.

"Outbound travel from Korea is on the rise due to a strong won but inbound travel from Japan is likely to remain flat for the time being due to the Japanese government's preference for a weaker yen," Tong Yang Securities analyst Kang Seong-Jin told Dow Jones Newswires.

The strength of the won against the dollar provided foreign-exchange translation gains worth 473.5 billion won in the fourth quarter, compared with 140.2 billion won a year earlier.

Dollar-denominated jet fuel costs decreased 3.6 percent to 1.172 trillion over the same period.

Korean Air's net profit for the whole of 2012 was 256.4 billion won, a vast improvement in a loss of 199.8 billion won in 2011.

Full-year operating profit plunged 30 percent to 322.4 billion won, while sales rose 3.7 percent to 12.7 trillion won.

The carrier said it was targetting sales of 13.07 trillion won and an operating profit of 660 billion won in 2013.