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SYDNEY, Feb 17 AAP

February 17 2013, 09:59AM

Qantas Airways is expected to report an improved net profit as the turnaround of its struggling international operations gathers pace.

The Flying Kangaroo is tipped to post a net profit of $138 million for the six months to December 31, 2012, according to a median of five analysts' forecasts gathered by AAP.

If the result, due on Thursday, prints in line with expectations it will well up from the $42 million net profit achieved in the first half of 2011/12.

Qantas said in November 2012 that underlying profit before tax - the airline's preferred measure of financial performance - was expected to be in the range of $180 million to $230 million.

Analysts expect Qantas' underlying PBT at $209 million in the first half, slightly above the $202 million achieved in the prior corresponding period.

Deutsche Bank research analysts Cameron McDonald and Entcho Raykovski said they expect Qantas' international division, which lost $450 million in 2011/12, to have improved in the first half.

"We would expect it to make a significant improvement during 1H13 given reversal of IR (industrial relations) costs from Nov 2011 and initial benefits from Qantas international transformation," the pair said in a research note dated January 18.

"We continue to back Qantas management's plans to turn around the international division over the next few years."

Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce grounded the airline's entire fleet in November 2011 as part of a dispute with unions.

The airline has restructured its international operations by cutting loss-making routes, accelerating the retirement of its Boeing 747-400s and forged new alliances with carriers such as Dubai-headquartered Emirates.

The airline has also reduced staff and consolidated its heavy maintenance facilities in a bid to lower costs.

The Emirates tie-up is awaiting a final decision from the competition regulator, due in March.

By Jordan Chong