German airline group Lufthansa said it expected pricing this year to be stable and predicted slightly lower profit due to increased fuel costs, after it reported record annual earnings for the third year in a row. 

Lufthansa is currently benefiting from low fuel prices, strong demand and last year's collapse of local rival Air Berlin.

This has helped to drive passengers to services offered by its namesake carrier and other units such as Eurowings, Austrian and Swiss. 

The group reported a 70% jump in adjusted earnings before interest and tax for 2017 of €2.97 billion, better than average analyst expectations of €2.84 billion, according to a Reuters poll. 

Unit revenues - a measure of pricing - rose 1.9% in 2017, and were up 2.3% in the fourth quarter. 

"You get very few years in this industry where you see that going up to that extent," the airline's chief financial officer Ulrik Svensson said. 

Svensson said pricing was "slightly positive" in the first quarter and the first half of 2018, but that the group did not have enough information to give an outlook for the second half of the year. 

Investors are concerned that European carriers are adding too many seats to the market this year, which could then put pressure on ticket prices again. 

Lufthansa gave up a plan to acquire leisure carrier Niki from Air Berlin due to competition concerns and is instead rapidly expanding the Eurowings budget unit to fill the gap left by Air Berlin. 

It plans to increase total capacity by 9.5% this year, down from initial plans in January for a 12% increase. 

Rival Air France-KLM said earlier this week that it was increasing its summer capacity by 4.1% as it seeks to grab its share of its growing travel market. 

Reflecting the improved results, Lufthansa plans to increase its dividend to a better than expected €0.80 a share, and said it would aim to keep the payout at that level or higher in the coming years.