* 2014 profit $73 mln vs $48 mln in 2013
* Annual revenue $7.6 bln vs $6 bln a year earlier
* Total passengers up 22 pct to 14.8 mln
By Matt Smith
DUBAI, May 28 (Reuters) - Abu Dhabi's Etihad Airways, one of three Gulf airlines that U.S. rivals say benefit from state subsidies, reported a 52 percent rise in annual profit on higher passenger numbers and increased revenue from cargo and partner airlines.
Etihad made a net profit of $73 million in 2014, up from $48 million a year earlier, the government-owned carrier said in an emailed statement on Thursday.
The airline's annual revenue rose 27 percent to $7.6 billion, including cargo revenue up 19 percent to $1.11 billion and a 38 percent rise in revenue from partner airlines to $1.13 billion.
Unlike Dubai-based rival Emirates, Etihad has based part of its expansion on investing in other carriers and owns minority stakes in Air Serbia, Ireland's Aer Lingus and India's Jet Airways among others.
This strategy has boosted sales and marketing opportunities in key markets, as well as significant cost savings, Etihad said in the statement, adding that its network reaches about 500 destinations, making it the largest Middle East carrier.
The airline launched services to 10 new destinations last year, including Los Angeles and San Francisco, while increasing capacity on 23 existing routes.
Etihad, Emirates and Qatar Airways have refuted claims by United States carriers that they received $40 billion in government subsidies, allowing them to lower prices and push U.S. competitors out of certain markets.
Etihad flew 14.8 million passengers in 2014, up 22 percent year on year, while seat occupancy rose 1.2 percentage points to 79.2 percent over the same period.
The airline has about 200 aircraft on order, plus options and purchase rights for a further 66. It plans to add 16 new planes to its fleet in 2015. (Editing by David Goodman)