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Copa Airlines: Strong Outlook

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Copa Airlines boosts revenues and profits, but faces several challenges. An in-depth look at one of Latin America's leading aviation stars.

BY CHRONICLE STAFF

Sam Taliaferro, a prominent U.S. real estate developer in Panama, is pleased with Copa Airlines, the countrys flag carrier.  "We have had a good experience with Copa and their increased airlift has helped the country dramatically," he says.

Taliaferro isnt the only one singing the praises of Copa. Last month, the airline posted traffic growth of 15.8 percent. That comes after a solid first half when both revenues and profits grew significantly. Copa Airlines reported total revenues of $478.0 million during the first half of the year, an increase of 24.7 percent from the same period last year. Net income reached $79.5 million, which was 44.0 percent higher than last year.

Meanwhile, diluted earnings per share (EPS) reached $0.71 during the second quarter, a 33.3 percent increase from the same period last year. Last year they reached $3.11, an increase from the $1.93 for 2005.

MEDIA-SHY MANAGEMENT

Despite the impressive results, Copa management does not want to talk.  Copas 49-year old CEO, Pedro Heilbron, declined to be interviewed for this article. Pamela Salazar, the director of public relations at Copas U.S.-based PR agency, Market Vision, cited scheduling conflicts during the rest of the year. She also said other key Copa executives could not be interviewed.

But aviation industry experts and independent analysts are generally bullish about Copa and its outlook. "They have the highest net margin in the industry,” says Bob Booth, chairman of U.S.-based consultancy AvGroup. "They have done an incredible job in creating the "hub of the Americas" in Panama."

He credits management and ownership for the success as well as the modern aircraft fleet and high fleet utilization. Copa, he says, are "just doing everything right."

Citigroup has identified Copa as its top 12-month pick among the Latin America-based airlines.  "Among the [Citigroup Investment Research]-covered Latin America-based carriers, we also believe that Copa has the...



Keywords: Aero Republica, Boeing, Calyon Securities, Colombia, Continental, Embraer

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