18 Feb 2021

Auckland International Airport posts significant fall in profits

12:32 pm on 18 February 2021

Auckland International Airport has posted a significant fall in profits as the pandemic devastated its earnings.

Travellers with face masks at Auckland Airport international arrivals during the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak on 20/3/2020.

Photo: RNZ / Liu Chen

The net profit for the six months ended December fell to $28.1 million compared with a profit of $147m in the previous year.

The bottom line was saved only by a continued strong performance of its commercial property business, which had a 2 percent lift in revenue and valuation gains of $29.8m.

Underlying earnings fell to a loss of $10.5m, as operations were severely curtailed since last March when border restrictions were put into place and domestic travel all but dried up during the lockdown.

Chief executive Adrian Littlewood said the challenging and uncertain outlook is set to continue for some time.

"While we have already seen a partial recovery of domestic travel and the opening of one-way quarantine free travel to Australia, our recovery path is strongly linked to two-way quarantine free trans-Tasman travel."

"We have assumed there will be no material quarantine-free, two-way Tasman travel during the remainder of the 2021 financial year. It also assumes no further lockdowns of an extended duration during the period," he said.

The company has cut all non-essential spending, suspended major expansion projects, laid off about a quarter of its workforce, and raised $1.2 billion to reinforce its finances.

Overheads were cut by about a third, and it planned to trim capital spending, although it was taking the opportunity to get on with maintenance and replacement of some facilities.

Littlewood looked for progress in making trans-Tasman and Pacific travel possible.

"I think what we need is clarity rather than certainty, so we need to know collectively from an industry point of view and a country point of view what are the things being tracked for when it is safe to do so (travel) and if we get that, we can start to plan."

However, he acknowledged that government would be the arbiter of that.

Littlewood said New Zealand's handling of the pandemic had "burnished" the country's attractiveness as a safe destination, and airlines had indicated they would be quick to return to flying here, but thought broader international travel was still some years away.

He said the airport was still burning cash and expects an underying loss for the full year of between $35m-55m, but after its capital raising of last year and cost cutting was well positioned with about $700m in cash.

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