STRONG FOURTH QUARTER PERFORMANCE BUT UNSATISFACTORY FULL-YEAR EARNINGS
AUGUST 2019–OCTOBER 2019
- Revenue: MSEK 13,463 (12,678)
- Income before tax (EBT): MSEK 1,096 (789)
- Income before tax and items affecting comparability: MSEK 1,226 (822)
- Net income for the period: MSEK 861 (623)
- Earnings per common share SEK 2.19 (1.56)
SIGNIFICANT EVENTS DURING THE QUARTER
- SAS issued a new hybrid bond amounting to SEK 1.5 billion
- New organizational structure implemented
- SAS expects to deliver an EBIT margin before items affecting comparability of 3-5% for the fiscal year 2020
NOVEMBER 2018–OCTOBER 2019
- Revenue: MSEK 46,736 (44,718)
- Income before tax (EBT): MSEK 794 (2,050)
- Income before tax and items affecting comparability: MSEK 786 (2,136)
- Net income for the period: MSEK 621 (1,595)
- Earnings per common share: SEK 1.54 (3.71)
- Income before tax negatively impacted by strike MSEK -615
- CO2 emissions reduced by 2.5%
COMMENTS BY THE CEO
SAS had an unsatisfactory full year result, significantly lower than last year, due to headwinds from higher jet-fuel costs, unfavorable currency movements and a strike. Despite these challenges, SAS’ attractive customer offering and operational efficiency improvements together with reduced market capacity, especially in the fourth quarter, led to a positive result for the full-year 2019.
During the fourth quarter, we noted strong momentum in the demand for our products and services. The total number of passengers grew 2.3%. In addition, sales of charter capacity and attached revenues also increased. Altogether, total revenues increased over 6% to MSEK 13,463.
Earnings before tax and items affecting comparability also developed favorably in the quarter and ended at MSEK 1,226, up MSEK 404 year-on-year. The improved earnings were mainly driven by increased revenues which were partially offset by higher operational expenditures from negative currency developments. Our ongoing work to improve operational robustness resulted in improved regularity and punctuality, as well as a significantly lower cost of claims.
During the quarter, we also strengthened our equity position by issuing a SEK 1.5 billion hybrid bond. The main objective of the issuance was to increase equity ahead of the new IFRS 16 accounting standard, which came into effect on 1 November 2019.
The full fiscal year 2019 was characterized by significant headwinds for SAS, including higher jet-fuel costs, unfavorable FX-rates and a seven-day strike. However, strong demand shown in passenger and attached revenues led to a total revenue increase of SEK 2 billion. The improved unit revenue and passenger yield show that our attractive value proposition for Scandinavian travelers generates strong revenues. Despite the increase, full-year earnings regrettably declined MSEK 1,350 due to the negative headwinds stated above.
FURTHER ENHANCEMENTS TO OUR CUSTOMER OFFERING
During the quarter we unveiled SAS’ new livery. This is part of our ongoing transformation to the most modern fleet in the market. The single-type fleet will, besides the financial advantages of streamlined maintenance and lower fuel consumption, also reduce our emissions significantly – a topic important for SAS, our customers and society at large.
Furthermore, we are pleased that the Norwegian Armed Forces selected SAS as their carrier of choice for the next four years. The contract strengthens our market position and presence in the important Norwegian domestic market. The Swedish Paralympic Committee also chose SAS as their partner ahead of the Paralympic Games in Tokyo 2020. The agreement with Sweden’s Paralympic Committee means that SAS is now the Olympic and Paralympic partner for all of Scandinavia’s athletes in Tokyo.
Looking ahead to next year, we are continuing to adapt our network to make life easier for our customers. For the coming summer program, we are launching 14 new direct routes and 5 totally new destinations from Scandinavia, including Bari (Italy), Rhodes (Greece), Tivat (Montenegro), Zadar (Croatia) and Valencia (Spain).
CONTINUED EFFORTS TO REDUCE CLIMATE IMPACT
Besides the fleet renewal, which is our most important initiative to reduce carbon emissions, we also made progress on several activities supporting our journey toward more sustainable air travel and a reduced climate impact.
We continued our efforts to increase the supply and usage of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (i.e. biofuel) and made it easier for travelers to voluntarily buy biofuel, in addition to the amount SAS is already using. On 31 October, we were happy to announce that the Swedish cross-country team decided to invest in biofuel to reduce its emissions. The team will buy biofuel from SAS at an amount equivalent to their fuel consumption on flights between Stockholm and Östersund.
SAS’ COO, Simon Pauck Hansen, was recently appointed Chairman of the Aviation Group in the Climate Partnership initiated by the Danish Government. The partnership is one out of 13, where all industrial segments in Denmark are engaged to fulfill the ambitious climate goals set by the Danish government. SAS looks forward to playing a vital role in the partnership and demonstrate leadership toward a more sustainable aviation future.
For the CO2 emissions that we cannot eliminate with today’s technology, we continue to carbon offset through Natural Capital Partners, which invests in global emission reduction projects, such as wind power in India. At the end of the quarter, we had compensated for over 3.9 million journeys with SAS, representing 40% of the total passenger-related CO2 emissions in the fourth quarter.
IMPROVED OPERATIONAL EFFICIENCY
Our efforts to improve operational quality continue. During the quarter, regularity increased 0.6 percentage points to 98.9% and punctuality increased 1.7 percentage points to 82.5%. In addition to supporting an improved customer experience, the improvements also resulted in lower claim costs.
We delivered on our efficiency target of SEK 0.9 billion set out for the year. The remaining SEK 0.6 billion of the total SEK 3 billion will be delivered in the next fiscal year, according to plan.
In the quarter, we implemented a new organizational structure to enhance accountability and to accelerate the next phase of transformation.
SAS did not meet two of its’ three financial targets for the fiscal year 2019, despite a strong fourth quarter. Financial preparedness remains strong, but the return on invested capital came in at a disappointing 8% and our adjusted net debt to EBITDAR increased to 3.7x.
This outcome is not satisfactory and reinforces the need for additional efforts to improve our operational efficiency and competitiveness. We remain committed to our strategy which has resulted in substantial improvements since 2012. Under this framework we have started additional initiatives to further improve efficiency, flexibility and competitiveness in the coming years.
Some of these initiatives will yield results already in 2020, while others lay the foundation for increased efficiency in the years to come. As a part of our digitalization and Lean efforts, we have set aside MSEK 120 in restructuring costs to accelerate the automation of administrative tasks to reduce overhead costs.
Our investment in a single-type fleet in SAS Scandinavia will bring significant benefits to our operations, but due to the required training, productivity will be negatively impacted in the forthcoming years. However, we will see some of the benefits materialize in 2021 with reduced stand-by levels and maintenance costs, as Arlanda becomes our second all-Airbus base after Copenhagen.
We will also benefit from our initiative to improve asset and crew utilization. Here we aim to have a new system and planning processes fully up and running by 2022. Already in 2020, this will help us to further improve our strong operational robustness and drive further efficiencies, that will contribute with MSEK 75 in cost reductions as early as next year.
As a final point, we need to further enhance our operating model to increase productivity and flexibility. Approximately 20% of the destinations in SAS network are optimal to serve with an aircraft sized between an A320neo (180-seat) and a CRJ (90-seat). Our older 120-150 seat aircraft serving this segment today need to be replaced in the next few years and currently there is no order in place to bridge the gap.
Rightsizing of the fleet is crucial from a profitability perspective, but it is also an important part of our journey towards a more sustainable future.
However, to place such an order we need to certify that the benefits of single-fleet operations on all platforms remain intact, and that the available aircraft types perform to the standard for which we are known. We also need to secure competitive duty agreements appropriate for mid-size operation.
In summary, all additional initiatives come with a substantial long-term potential and the additional gross efficiency improvements are estimated at SEK 1.5-2.0 billion by FY23 and beyond. In 2020, we expect these initiatives to contribute to the full-year target of SEK 0.6 billion in efficiency improvements.
The uncertain economic outlook and emerging slowdown in key economies will negatively impact customer demand. The continued weakness of the Swedish and Norwegian krona against the US dollar and the Euro also remains a challenge. For the forthcoming year, we therefore foresee significantly lower growth, both from a demand and a supply perspective.
Given these market conditions together with higher costs for new aircraft, increased training volumes as well as the implementation of IFRS 16, we expect to deliver an EBIT margin of 3-5% for fiscal year 2020. For the same reasons we expect an increased loss for the first quarter of fiscal year 2020 compared to last year.
I would also like to take the opportunity to thank all SAS employees and partners for their efforts during the year. Similarly, I want to thank our customers and look forward to welcoming you aboard one of our 800 daily flights in 2020!
Stockholm, 5 December 2019
President and CEO
This information is information that SAS AB is obliged to disclose pursuant to the EU Market Abuse Regulation and the Securities Markets Act. The information was submitted by Michel Fischier for publication on 5 December 2019 at 8:00 a.m. CET.