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Airports Company South Africa makes R1.2 billion profit, sees 1% decline in departing passengers

Airports Company South Africa says the network of airports had been on track to 'weather the economic storm' underway before Covid-19. Picture: AP Photo/Themba Hadebe.

Airports Company South Africa says the network of airports had been on track to 'weather the economic storm' underway before Covid-19. Picture: AP Photo/Themba Hadebe.

Published Oct 27, 2020


Airports Company South Africa reported revenue of R7.12 billion, EBITDA of R2.6-billion and profit of R1.2 billion for the financial year to 31 March 2020 on Tuesday morning.

Chief Executive Officer Mpumi Z. Mpofu said the improvement in profit is to a large extent at odds with the underlying operational performance of the company.

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She said the significant improvement in profit is attributable to the impact of accounting adjustments and events such as the R721 million fair-value adjustment to investment properties and R157 million in rates refunds.

“The impact of Covid-19 and travel restrictions resulted in the company foregoing performance bonuses and reducing other operating expenses towards the end of the financial year in order to mitigate the liquidity challenges, but it also necessitated an increase of R270 million in provision for doubtful debts,” she said.

Mpofu said the 1.7% decline in aeronautical revenue reflected the impact of a tough operating environment and effect of no tariff increase which contributed to the overall 0.03% drop in revenue.

“A 1.9% increase in non-aeronautical revenue offset the muted aeronautical revenue. However, earnings were eroded by significant cost pressures which saw operating costs rise by 2% to R2.6 billion.

“Major components of the cost base were security services and asset maintenance costs in response to security threats, regulatory compliance, and previously anticipated growth in traffic volumes in a bid to improve passenger experience,” added Mpofu.

The group generated sufficient cash-flows of R2.5 billion to fund its operations, investment in capital expenditure and servicing of debt. The group repaid R296 million of debt and ended the financial year with cash reserves of R1.7 billion.

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The statement revealed that as of 31 March 2020, the company’s debt amounted to R6.4-billion (2019: R6.5 billion) which resulted in a gearing ratio of 17%.

Debt has been reduced by R11 billion since 2012 when gearing stood at 60%.

Mpofu said that despite the challenging environment, the network of airports had been on track to weather the economic storm underway before Covid-19, recording 3.3% total passenger growth up to the end of February 2020.

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This comprised muted growth of 0.3% for cross-border traffic and 4.7% for domestic travel.

Overall, Airports Company South Africa recorded a 1% decline in departing passenger numbers to 20 924 465. Aircraft landings for the year were down 4% to 248 519 (2019: 259 169).

“Up until the end of the third quarter, we were able to withstand economic headwinds.

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“Unfortunately, the pandemic and subsequent travel bans led to a drastic contraction in departing passengers and aircraft landings, resulting in an overall decline for the year," said Mpofu.

Leading up to the last quarter, the company’s plans to grow non-aeronautical revenue were yielding good results.

“Compared to the previous year, commercial and retail revenues were up 4% and 1% respectively.

“Annual escalations pushed car rental and property revenues were up 4% and 9% respectively, while advertising recorded an increase of 10%.

“The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic caused our earnings to take a dramatic downturn, and this trend is set to continue in the next financial year,” added Mpofu.

Meanwhile, the company announced that the share of commercial revenue generated by black businesses rose to 55.4% from 54% in the previous year.

In planning for the recovery from the pandemic, an amended corporate plan was submitted to the Department of Transport and National Treasury in August 2020 and September 2020, respectively.

Mpofu said the amended corporate plan is based on the company’s assessment of the impact of Covid-19 and travel restrictions on traffic volumes, and the ramifications for the Group’s financial performance and position.

“We anticipate that the impact on traffic volumes and airline sustainability will be long term.

“Significant responses that have been introduced to mitigate the impact of the anticipated traffic volume decline include considerable reductions in operational and capital expenditure,” said Mpofu.

The result of this scenario leads to a funding requirement over a five to six-year period of up to R11 billion.

Of this amount, up to R3.5 billion will be required in the next three years given current assumptions.

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