Malaysian budget carrier AirAsia said on Thursday that its net profit hit a record 1.07 billion ringgit ($349 million) last year, bolstered by a strong performance in the fourth quarter, but warned high oil prices may force it to impose a fuel surcharge.

The Malaysia-based airline announced plans for further expansion this year, including the possible listing of its Indonesian and Thailand outfits and starting operations in the Philippines.

Profit for the three months through December soared to 317 million ringgit ($103 million), up from 34 million ringgit ($11.1 million) a year earlier. Revenue for the quarter was up by 33 percent from a year earlier to 1.19 billion ringgit ($388 million) amid strong passenger growth and rising ancillary income.

For the full year, AirAsia’s profit doubled to breach the one billion ringgit mark on revenue of 4 billion dollars ($1.3 billion). This was despite average fuel prices surging 35 percent year-on-year to $92 a barrel in 2010, it said.

“The company is in the best position, financially, that it has ever been in providing a strong foundation for further expansion and growth in 2011,” Chief Executive Tony Fernandes said in a statement.

However, the carrier said rising oil prices could hamper its growth. Oil prices zoomed to nearly $102 a barrel on Thursday as chaos in Libya disrupted crude supplies from the OPEC nation.

“We will continue to monitor oil price movements, and the introduction of a fuel surcharge cannot be discounted if the current price is sustained or rises further,” it said.

For all of 2010, the AirAsia group combining its Malaysian, Indonesian and Thai operations carried 25.7 million passengers, up 13 percent from the 22.7 people it carried in 2009.

Mr. Fernandes said growth in ancillary income -- derived from sale of products and services such as baggage fees, cargo, in-flight meals and insurance -- matched rising passenger numbers.

He said the Thai and Indonesian affiliates also reported strong performance for the full year, putting them on track with plans for listing this year but didn’t give details.

AirAsia said it will launch operations in the Philippines in the second half of the year and take delivery of 14 new planes this year.

It said forward bookings were higher so far this year. It has hedged up to 21 percent of its oil needs for the first half this year at an average of $92.31 a barrel.

“We will add more if the situation warrants it. We are determined to keep fares low and have the option of imposing a fuel charges or raising fares,” Mr. Fernandes added.


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