VIRGIN Atlantic's profits fell by more than half in the year to April 2000, hit by tough competition and higher fuel costs.

The group, which has 32 planes covering 20 destinations, said pre-tax profits, stripping out exceptional costs, came in at £40m, against £99m for the year to April 1999.

Turnover rose from £1.07bn to £1.27bn.

A company spokesman said the reason for the profits decline was a combination of tough trading, higher fuel prices and overcapacity in the market. The group is forecasting higher profits for 2000-01.

The latest figures relate to 1999-2000 rather than 2000-01 because Virgin is a private company and files its figures with Companies House, rather than direct to the Stock Exchange.