Friday, 3 May 2019

Air France - KLM first quarter results

Air France - KLM has released its latest results for the first quarter of 2019, a particularly challenging time for the European aviation industry. The group has in essence performed well during the period and reduced its debts by €403 million, now it only owes €5.8 billion.

Benjamin Smith, Air France-KLM Group CEO said: “As anticipated, the first quarter has been challenging for the European airline industry including the Air France-KLM Group, as substantial industry capacity growth in the off-peak business period led to unit revenue pressure. In this context, the Group achieved further improvement in unit cost while reaping the benefits of its efforts to strengthen its positioning, as evidenced by the first signs of progress in operational performance at Air France, notably in term of “Net Promoter Score” and punctuality. These elements, together with a more benign industry supply outlook for the summer, lead us to expect improving trends in the rest of the year and to confirm our full-year guidance. We aim to have a capital market day planned in November 2019 to further outline the Group strategic directions.”




FIRST QUARTER 2019
  • Passenger growth +3% and load factor -0.3 point.
  • Unit revenue down -1.9% due to Easter shift and substantial industry capacity growth in the winter.
  • Unit costs decrease by -0.4% at constant currency and fuel.
  • Operating result at -303 million euros, with unit cost improvement more than offset by unit revenue, fuel bill and currency headwinds.
  • Further reduction in Group net debt, down 403 million euros to 5.8 billion euros and Net debt/EBITDA ratio at 1.4x stable compared to 31 December 2018.
OUTLOOK 2019
  • Long Haul industry capacity to / from Europe for the summer 2019 is projected to grow at a slower pace compared to last year, particularly to Middle East, North America and Asia.
  • Based on current data for Passenger network:
    • Long-haul forward booking load factors from May to September are on average ahead compared to last year.
    • Network passenger unit revenues at constant currency expected to slightly improve compared to last year for the second quarter 2019, with positive long haul unit revenues largely offset by negative point-to-point unit revenues.
  • Full year guidance confirmed:
    • Unit cost (CASK) reduction between -1% and 0% at constant currency and fuel price,
    • Net debt/EBITDA ratio below 1.5x.
Air France-KLM GroupFirst quarter
2019Change
Passengers (thousands)22,674+3.0%
Passenger Unit revenue per ASK1 (€ cts)6.17-1.9%
Operating result (€m)-303-185
Net income – Group part (€m)-320-51
Adj. operating free cash flow (€m)241+99
Net debt at end of period (€m)5,761-403
 First quarter 2019 business review 
Network: Operating result impacted by unit revenue pressure and fuel bill increase
NetworkFirst quarter
2019ChangeChange constant currency
Capacity (ASK m)69,759+2.3%
Total revenues (€m)5,175+1.7%+1.0%
Scheduled revenues (€m)4,893+1.2%+0.4%
Operating result (€m)-279-193-146
First quarter 2019 combined Passenger and Cargo revenues increased by 1.0% at constant currency to 5.2 billion euros, for a capacity growth of 2.3%. The operating result amounted to -279 million euros, a 146 million euros decrease at constant currency compared to last year, mostly due to unit revenue pressure and fuel bill increase as anticipated.
Passenger network: Resilient unit revenues for long-haul and premium and decline in short- and medium-haul
First quarter
Passenger network2019ChangeChange constant currency
Passengers (thousands)19,745+2.4%
Capacity (ASK m)69,759+2.3%
Traffic (RPK m)60,221+1.9%
Load factor 86.3%-0.4 pt
Total passenger revenues (€m)4,628+1.8%+1.3%
Scheduled passenger revenues (€m)4,420+1.4%+0.7%
Unit revenue per ASK (€ cts)6.34-0.9%-1.6%
First quarter 2019 capacity increased by 2.3%, mainly driven by the South American, North Atlantic and Asian networks with respective growth of 9.8%, 5.3% and 1.8%.
The passenger network experienced a supply – demand imbalance putting pressure on unit revenues. Revenue management anticipated to price competitive trends in the market and managed to contain impact on unit revenues to -1.6% at constant currency compared to last year.
  • The North America network experienced competitive pricing sensitivity and posted a 2.5% unit revenue decrease, but after a strong unit revenue performance in the previous year (+4.9%).
  • The 9.8% additional capacity on South America was driven by growth on the Andean routes and the opening of the Fortaleza service in April 2018. Ongoing pressure persists due to economic difficulties in Argentina and the international demand recovery of the Brazilian market progressing slower than anticipated.
  • The Asian network’s solid performance trend continues, with first quarter unit revenue up 1.7%, driven in particular by the Japanese network.
  • Caribbean & Indian Ocean network posted a strong result with unit revenues of +4.3%, driven by strong leisure demand.
  • Africa & Middle East network was relatively stable compared to last year.
  • The medium-haul network saw a unit revenue decrease of 2.4%, due to substantial intra-European industry capacity growth.
Cargo network: Unit revenues impacted by slowdown of air freight market
First quarter
Cargo network2019ChangeChange constant currency
Tons (thousands)270+0.0%
Capacity (ATK m)3,462+1.4%
Traffic (RTK m)2,046+0.5%
Load factor 59.1%-0.5 pt
Total Cargo revenues (€m)547+0.7%-1.3%
Scheduled cargo revenues (€m)473-0.8%-2.8%
Unit revenue per ATK (€ cts )13.67-2.0%-4.0%
A slowdown of volumes in the first quarter is visible in the whole air freight market, due to economic slowdown, political uncertainties and trade disputes. This has put pressure on freight rates, resulting in a unit revenue development of -4.0% at constant currency. Several network rationalization measures have been implemented during the quarter to counterbalance the negative trend. A slight capacity increase has been offset by this unit revenue decrease, resulting in a decline of revenues by 1.3% at constant currency.
Transavia: Strong capacity growth, but unit revenue decline primarily explained by Easter shift
First quarter
Transavia2019Change
Passengers (thousands)2,929+7.4%
Capacity (ASK m)5,826+11.4%
Traffic (RPK m)5,368+11.7%
Load factor 92.1%+0.2 pt
Total passenger revenues (€m)249+6.0%
Unit revenue per ASK (€ cts)4.15-3.5%
Unit cost per ASK (€ cts)5.37-0.8%
Operating result (€m)-71-13
First quarter 2019 saw the launch of several new routes and a strong capacity growth of 11.4%. Unit revenues decreased by 3.5% compared to last year, primarily explained by Easter shift and an increase of stage length of the route network. The unit cost improved with -0.8% and -1.7% at constant fuel and currency.
The first quarter 2019 operating result stood at -71 million euros, 13 million euros lower compared to last year. 
Maintenance: Strong third party revenue growth and margin improvement
First quarter
Maintenance2019ChangeChange constant currency
Total revenues (€m)1,170+8.7%
Third party revenues (€m)554+17.6%+9.9%
Operating result  (€m)472016
Operating margin (%)4.0%+1.5 pt+1.3 pt
Maintenance revenues increased compared to last year with third-party revenues up by 9.9% at constant currency, a continuation of the growth trend realized by the inflow of new contracts. The Maintenance order book stood at 11.5 billion dollars at 31 March 2019, an increase of 0.1 billion dollars compared to 31 December 2018.
The operating margin expressed as a percentage of total revenues stood at 4.0%, an increase of 1.3 point at constant currency compared to last year, explained by the focus on margin quality in both engine and component businesses.
Air France-KLM Group: Unit cost improvement more than offset by unit revenue, fuel and currency headwinds
First quarter
2019ChangeChange constant currency
Capacity (ASK m)75,586+3.0%
Traffic (RPK m)65,589+2.6%
Passenger unit revenue per ASK (€ cts)  6.17-1.2%-1.9%
Group unit revenue per ASK (€ cts)  6.79-1.4%-2.2%
Group unit cost per ASK (€ cts) at constant fuel  7.19+1.2%-0.4%
Revenues (€m)5,986+3.1%+2.0%
EBITDA (€m)424-31.7%-26.3%
Operating result (€m)-303-185-142
Operating margin (%)-5.1%-3.0 pt-2.3 pt
Net income - Group part (€m)-320-51
In the first quarter 2019, the Air France-KLM Group posted an operating result of -303 million euros, down 185 million euros compared to last year, which was impacted by the Air France strike for -75 million euros.
The unit revenue at constant currency of -2.2% compared to last year had a negative impact of 115 million euros on the operating result.
The fuel bill including hedging amounted to 1,201 million euros for first quarter 2019, up 140 million euros, of which 44 million euros is explained by an increase in the fuel price and a volume effect of 34 million euros for the capacity increase compared to last year. The result of the fuel hedges has been a gain of 35 million euros.
Currencies had a positive 65 million euro impact on revenues and a negative 108 million euro effect on costs including currency hedging. The net impact of currencies thus amounted to a negative 43 million euros for first quarter 2019.
Unit costs in line with full year guidance
On a constant currency and fuel price basis, unit costs were down -0.4% in the first quarter 2019, driven in particular by the decrease in customer compensations compared to first quarter 2018 that was marked by the strikes in Air France
However this was partly offset by KLM unit cost which were impacted by a 1.3% lower than planned capacity due to weather and technical reasons.
Net employee costs were up 6.4% in the quarter compared to last year, explained by additional hirings for the capacity growth, the impact of the implemented wage agreements for Air France and KLM staff and the last year strike effect.
Compared to last year, the average number of FTEs increased by 1,050, including +450 Pilots and +50 Cabin Crew in response to the capacity growth. However, productivity measured in ASK per FTE increased by 1.7% in the first quarter 2019 while capacity increased by 3.0%.
Positive operating free cash flow and net debt reduction
First quarter
In € million2019Change
Cash flow before change in WCR and Voluntary Departure Plans, continuing operations368-144
Cash out related to Voluntary Departure Plans-4+18
Change in Working Capital Requirement (WCR)806-1
Net cash flow from operating activities1,170-127
Net investments before sale & lease-back*-678+235
Operating free cash flow492+108
Reduction of lease debt-251-9
Adjusted operating free cash flow **24199
* Sum of ‘Purchase of property, plant and equipment and intangible assets’ and ‘Proceeds on disposal of property, plant and equipment and intangible assets’ as presented in the consolidated cash flow statement.
** The “Adjusted operating free cash” is operating free cash flow with deduction of the repayment of lease debt.
Adjusted operating free cash flow positive
The Group generated positive adjusted operating free cash flow of 241 million euros, an increase of 99 million euros compared to last year, mainly explained by a lower capex in the first quarter 2019 due to  a year-over-year shift in investment timing pattern.
Leverage stable                   
In € million31 Mar 201931 Dec 2018
Net debt5,7616,164
EBITDA trailing 12 months4,0204,217
Net debt/EBITDA trailing 12 months1.4x1.5x
The Group reduced its net debt to 5,761 million euros at 31 March 2019 versus 6,164 million euros at 31 December 2018. This 403 million euro reduction was driven by operating free cash flow generation and the repayment of lease debt.
The net debt/EBITDA ratio stood at 1.4x at 31 March 2019, a decrease of 0.03 point compared to 31 December 2018, explained by the reduction of the net debt.
Both airlines impacted by unit revenue pressure and fuel bill increase
First quarter
2019Change
Air France Group
Operating result (€m)-256-78
Operating margin (%)-6.9%-1.9 pt
KLM Group
Operating result (€m)-56-116
Operating margin (%)-2.3%-4.5 pt
 Outlook
The global context remains uncertain given the current geopolitical environment and fuel price trends.
For the full year 2019, the Air France-KLM Group plans to selectively grow capacity for the Passenger network by 2% to 3% compared to 2018. Transavia will continue to grow at a sustained pace of 9% to 11%.
Long Haul industry capacity to / from Europe for the summer 2019 is projected to grow at a slower pace compared to last year, particularly to Middle East, North America and Asia.
Based on the current data for the Passenger network:
  • Long-haul forward booking load factors from May to September are on average ahead compared to last year.
  • Network passenger unit revenues at constant currency expected to slightly improve compared to last year for the second quarter 2019, with positive long haul unit revenues largely offset by negative point-to-point unit revenues.                                                                              
Full year guidance confirmed:
  • The Group will pursue initiatives to reduce unit costs1, with a targeted reduction for 2019 of between -1% to 0% at constant currency and fuel price.
  • The 2019 fuel bill is expected to increase by 650 million euros compared to 2018 to 5.6 billion euros2, based on the forward curve of 26 April 2019.
  • The Group’s capital expenditures are planned at the level of 3.2 billion euros for the year 2019 and the Group is targeting a Net debt/EBITDA ratio below 1.5x.



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