April 26, 2018 / 7:57 AM / in 6 months

UPDATE 1-Vietnam's biggest carriers see higher profits, expansion talk

* Vietnam Airlines says aviation growth exceeds forecasts

* VietJet to add routes to Japan, India, Australia (Recasts with Vietnam Airlines results)

By Khanh Vu and Mai Nguyen

HANOI, April 26 (Reuters) - Vietnam’s two biggest airlines reported strong growth in domestic and international markets on Thursday, fuelling profits and talk of expansion plans.

VietJet, the biggest private airline in the Southeast Asian nation, said it was adding routes to Japan, India and Australia as part of its strategy to become a global airline.

Hanoi-based VietJet currently operates 38 domestic and 44 international routes. VietJet added 17 new aircraft last year to boost its fleet to 51 planes.

VietJet said on Thursday it expected pre-tax profit to rise to 5.8 trillion dong this year, up 9.4 percent from 2017. It also targeted a 20.5 percent rise in revenue to 50.97 trillion dong from a year earlier.

Its state-owned rival, Vietnam Airlines, said on Thursday its pre-tax profit jumped 71 percent in the first quarter as growth on domestic and international routes exceeded its forecasts.

Pre-tax profit during the January-March quarter rose to 1.46 trillion dong ($64.13 million), the airline said in a statement, up from 854 billion dong in the same period a year earlier.

Vietnam Airlines said it carried five million passengers in the quarter, up five percent from the same period last year.

“Demand remains high in Northeast Asian markets (Japan, South Korea), together with the implementation of market-driven solutions in the condition of high fuel prices,” the airline said, adding it will take delivery of its 12th Airbus A350 in the second quarter.

Vietnam Airlines could launch non-stop flights to the United States in 2019, Chief Executive Officer Duong Tri Thanh said in February, but it would struggle to be profitable on U.S. routes due to the lack of business travellers. ($1 = 22,765 dong) (Reporting by Khanh Vu and Mai Nguyen Editing by Biju Dwarakanath and Darren Schuettler)

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