LONDON, Dec 4 (Reuters) - British aircraft operator Dart Group almost doubled first-half preta
x profit, driven by its low-cost leisure airline, and said winter bookings levels were encouraging, sending shares as much as 26 percent higher.
The company, which also distributes fresh produce under the Fowler Welch-Coolchain brand, said on Thursday however it was cancelling the interim dividend in light of the economic downturn.
'We expect a more challenging trading environment next year and will continue to manage the business cautiously in the light of current economic conditions,' said Chairman Philip Meeson.
AIM-listed Dart said its half-year pretax profit rose 97 percent to 36.3 million pounds ($53.4 million) for the six months ended Sept. 30.
'We would expect second half trading to be in line with last year. Jet2.com forward booking levels remain encouraging for the winter and Fowler Welch-Coolchain continues to perform in line with the board's expectations,' said Meeson.
With its Jet2.com airline, Dart Group operates 29 cargo and passenger aircrafts on leisure routes from bases in North England to the Mediterranean, Red Sea and Canary Island.
The company also reported its turnover was up 8 percent to 273 million pounds, with 2.3 million passengers in the six-month period travelling on 74 routes.
At 0813 GMT, shares in Dart, which ranks 16 in the UK Transport sector with a market capitalisation of about 35 million pounds, were up 22 percent at 30 pence.
(Reporting by Martina Fuchs; Editing by Victoria Bryan) ($1=.6798 Pound) Keywords: DART GROUP/
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