Etihad Airways has posted a 48% leap in 2013 profit and predicted more growth this year, as the fast-expanding Abu Dhabi airline aims to develop its alliance network with a potential investment in Alitalia.

Etihad, which has minority stakes in seven airlines including Aer Lingus and Air Berlin, earned a net profit of $62 million last year, up from $42 million in 2012.

Revenue rose 27% in 2013 to $6.1 billion, the state-owned carrier said in a statement. 

The ten-year old airline, which carried nearly 12 million passengers last year, made its first profit in 2011.

Unlisted Etihad has been on an acquisition drive in recent months, taking minority equity stakes in Virgin Australia and Aer Lingus and raising its shareholding in Air Berlin and Air Seychelles.

The Gulf carrier is now in talks with Italy's struggling Alitalia on an investment; the due diligence process is underway.

"The commercial mandate I have is to maintain profitability," Etihad's chief executive James Hogan said in an interview on announcing the results.

"I have a profit target for 2014 - it will be greater than 2013 and will meet my objectives."

He added that in 2014, the airline's turnover would rise above $7 billion.

Revenue from its partnerships with other carriers rose 30% to $820 million last year, representing 21% of passenger revenues, Etihad said.

Its cargo revenues were up 30% to $928 million as volume climbed to 486,753 tonnes from 367,837 tonnes.

The airline said it raised $2.14 billion of funds on the commercial markets in 2013, primarily for fleet development.

In 2014, Etihad will receive 18 new aircraft, including its first Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner and its first Airbus A380 super jumbo, both of which are scheduled for delivery in the fourth quarter.