Flughafen Zürich AG: Half Year 2021
Ad hoc announcement pursuant to Art. 53 LR
For Flughafen Zürich AG, the first half of 2021 was marked by pandemic-related travel restrictions and significant constraints in our commercial centers. This resulted in a consolidated loss of CHF 45.1 million for the first half year. Costs and investments were reduced significantly, but without losing sight of the long-term focus. Thanks to the diversified business model, revenue did not decline to the same degree as air traffic, with the real estate business in particular proving to be a stable source of income. The opening of the Convention Center and the Hyatt Regency Zurich Airport Hotel in the Circle also marked a significant milestone.
Assessment of the exceptional situation
The first half of 2021 remained challenging for the company, our partner firms and the aviation industry as a whole. The low level of air traffic reached 25% of pre-pandemic levels at best, with intercontinental flights and business travel being particularly badly affected. Along with office staff having to work from home, the temporary closure of shops and restaurants also greatly reduced footfall at Zurich Airport. The first glimmers of light at the end of the tunnel emerged in May when improvements in the medical situation enabled the Swiss Federal Council to take decisions that will slowly allow life to return to normal.
The relaxation of travel restrictions around this time were crucial. Like other major European holiday destinations, Switzerland dropped its quarantine and testing requirements for those who had been vaccinated or had recovered from Covid-19. The blanket travel restrictions imposed on numerous non-Schengen countries were lifted, while unvaccinated travellers were permitted to return from most countries without quarantine on presentation of a negative test result. These new arrangements met the key demands of our “Back in the air” campaign for which we had strenuously lobbied together with various representatives of the aviation industry and business organisations.
Restoration of the freedom to travel and greater planning certainty also led to a jump in the number of bookings with airlines and travel agencies. We consequently recorded higher passenger numbers at Easter, Whitsun and for the summer months, although on peak days numbers were still 50% below pre-crisis levels. Our commercial partners and bars, cafés and restaurants are now also seeing a slight upswing and have been fully operational again since the middle of the year. In April we were able to celebrate one particularly welcome milestone for the Circle: the opening of the Hyatt Regency Zurich Airport The Circle Hotel and of The Circle Convention Center.
The trend in both our aviation business and in our commercial centers has once more shown a positive direction of travel since the summer. It will take several years to return to pre-crisis levels. We are confident that air travel will recover again in the medium term, however. If globalisation continues to spread, populations grow worldwide and the global economy remains relatively stable, the demand for international mobility will continue its upward trajectory.
Trend in traffic volume
Between January and June 2021, some 2.1 million passengers used Zurich Airport as a departure, transfer or destination airport, down 60.5% from the prior-year period. In comparison with the first half of 2019, the number of passengers fell by as much as 85.9%.
The number of flight movements fell by 31.9% to 41,123 take-offs and landings in the first half of 2021. Only the number of freight flights increased (+18.6%), which also had a positive impact on the volume of freight handled compared with the first half of 2020 (up 25.1% to 180,788 tonnes).
Trend in revenue
Total revenue in the first six months of 2021 decreased year-on-year by 15.1% to CHF 263.6 million. Compared with 2019, this represents an even steeper decline of 55.2%.
Aviation revenue fell by 49.8% to CHF 65.5 million. The fact that aviation revenue did not decline as steeply as passenger volumes is because not all charges are linked to the latter. Moreover, a temporary 10% cut in flight operations charges (excluding emission and noise charges) came into effect on 1 April to help airlines ramp up operations again.
Over the same period, non-aviation revenue rose by 10.1% to CHF 198.1 million. The increase in commercial revenue was chiefly due to the application of IFRS 16 to the rent concessions granted in the retail, tax & duty free and food & beverage segments which were recognised as assets and will be depreciated on a straight-line basis over the term of the respective agreements. While parking revenue was also affected by the crisis, earnings from facility management grew by 8.0% to CHF 74.6 million. This increase is primarily attributable to additional rental income from the Circle. Our past investments in strengthening stable real estate revenues have proved particularly beneficial during the crisis.
Despite a high proportion of fixed costs, operating expenses fell year on year by 16.6% to CHF 171.4 million. The savings are mainly attributable to lower personnel expenses as a result of short-time working, lower police and security costs, and other general cost reductions. Compared with 2019, after adjustment for expenses for construction projects, operating expenses were down by 30.4% (CHF –72.7 million).
Operating and consolidated result
Compared with the prior-year period, earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) fell by 12.1% to CHF 92.2 million. In comparison with 2019, EBITDA is as much as 69.6% lower.
The bottom line result for the first half of 2021 was a loss of CHF 45.1 million. In the prior-year period, the company likewise posted a loss of CHF 27.5 million, whereas it achieved a profit of CHF 143.4 million in 2019.
In the past year, Flughafen Zürich AG successfully placed a total of three debentures totalling CHF 900 million on the Swiss capital market, at the same time paying back a maturing debenture for CHF 300 million. Moreover, as a precaution, Flughafen Zürich AG exercised its contractual option to increase its credit facilities to a total of CHF 300 million at the beginning of 2021. In conjunction with reductions in costs and investments, the company's liquidity is secured; as at the reporting date it stands at CHF 455.3 million (excluding unused credit facilities).
The forecast for the current financial year is still surrounded by a great deal of uncertainty. If the positive trend from the beginning of the summer months continues, passenger volumes can be expected to reach over 50% of 2019 levels by the end of the current year. This would create the conditions for the company to return to profit and generate a positive free cash flow again. Further setbacks cannot be excluded, however.
As well as aviation revenue, commercial revenues remain under pressure for 2021. Thanks to additional income from the Circle, revenue from real estate proved to be extremely stable during the crisis and is set to grow in 2021. A speedier recovery is expected in the case of revenue from international business activities as this is more dependent on domestic travel in the respective markets and will therefore recover more quickly.
Further reductions in the cost basis compared with the previous year are anticipated.
Investment at the Zurich base in 2021 will amount to approximately CHF 220 million. Depending mainly on when construction begins on the project in Noida, India, investment at subsidiaries abroad will add a maximum of approximately CHF 100 million.
The 2021 Interim Report of Flughafen Zürich AG is available under