Middle East Airlines, Lebanon’s national carrier, reported a 44 percent drop in profit last year, the Daily Star reported, citing the airline\'s chairman Mohamad el-Hout. The Beirut-based carrier saw its profits decline to $40 million in 2011 from $90 million in 2010 due to a rise in the prices of fuel, and increase in the cost of employee salaries, and political instability in the region, the newspaper reported, citing Hout. \"These factors contributed to the fall in profits last year but we expect the picture to change this year if the price of oil becomes more stable,\'\' Hout told the daily. Hout said MEA saw an increase of as much as 20 percent in the number of passengers in the first four months of 2012. The carrier\'s plans to list 25 percent of its shares on the Beirut Stock Exchange, were skirted by regional turmoil. Hout told the daily he plans to visit Cyprus to discuss the possible acquisition of unprofitable Cypriot Airways. The government of the Mediterranean island said in February it would consider offers for a stake in Cyprus Airways. MEA, owned by the Central Bank, which rescued it from bankruptcy in 1996, has a fleet of 16 Airbus SAS planes and flies to more than 38 destinations.