Air Canada raises long-term profit margin goals

Air Canada signage is pictured at Vancouver's international airport in Richmond, British Columbia, Canada, February 5, 2019. REUTERS/Ben Nelms

(Reuters) - Air Canada increased its long-term targets for profit margins and free cash flow on Thursday, as the country’s largest airline benefits from cost-cutting efforts and an expansion into new destinations.

Air Canada projected annual margins on core earnings (EBITDA) of between 19 percent and 22 percent from 2019 until 2021. For the same period, the carrier expects cumulative free cash flow of C$4 billion ($3 billion) to C$4.5 billion.

The company had previously set an EBITDAR margin target of 17 percent to 20 percent for the period from 2018 to 2020, along with free cash flow of between C$2 billion and C$3 billion.

The numbers were part of new financial targets for a handful of closely-watched industry metrics announced by the company for its investor day event, where it is expected to provide updates on strategy. The event is expected to begin at 9 a.m. ET (1430 GMT) in Toronto on Thursday.

“We are now on course for our objective of achieving an investment grade credit rating,” Chief Executive Officer Calin Rovinescu said in a statement.

Reporting by Allison Lampert in Montreal and Debroop Roy in Bengaluru; editing by Anil D’Silva and Sai Sachin Ravikumar