Airport passenger increase is boost to shareholders

Airport operator Aena presented its Strategic Plan for the period 2022-2026, in an event led by its president and CEO, Maurici Lucena, and by the two general directors: Javier Marín, executive director and general director of Airports, and María José Cuenda, Commercial and Real Estate General Director.

The airport manager expects to recover pre-pandemic traffic levels in 2024 (some 275 million passengers), earlier than initially planned, and forecasts that the number of travellers on its network in Spain will be around 300 million at the end of the period of validity of the Plan. This recovery is already underway and, as Lucena has pointed out, it is taking place in the Aena network without the operational problems that other European airports suffer severely, where, moreover, the recovery is less.

Lucena has stated that “we will manage this growing traffic with quality levels that have been accredited with the good management of the company in a very difficult stage such as the summer of 2022”.

He added that “the recovery has been stronger than that of our peers. Spain and its airports have worked very well. The operational problems this summer at Spanish airports have been due to the echo of the malfunctions at airports in the rest of Europe. This is not only the merit of the good work of Aena but also of general labour legislation and of aeronautical transport and the tourist power that has developed coordination mechanisms that have been fundamental in resolving the different problems that have arisen in the course of the pandemic and its consequences”.

Of course, the financial increase that the recovery is generating will not be passed to the passengers, who are already paying higher fares, but it will be transferred to the shareholders, since Aena will propose to the Shareholders’ Meeting the return to the payment of dividends with a pay-out during the entire period of the Strategic Plan of 80% without applying the effects of the seventh Final Provision. Thus, the proposed dividend charged to 2022 will increase an additional 1.37 euro per share over the calculation resulting from the profit obtained at the end of the year.

“Aena will be the most attractive company in the airport sector from the perspective of dividend policy”, assured the president.

In the commercial field, Aena expects that commercial income per passenger will increase by at least 12% in 2026 compared to 2019, under inflation hypotheses that place the peak during 2022/2023 to subsequently converge with the objectives of the central banks, and that the total income of this business increases by more than 23%. In recent months, the aggregate sales of the commercial lines have already exceeded those of 2019 and, in the recent awards, the Guaranteed Minimum Rents (RMGAs) of 2023 are 13% higher than those of 2019, while, for 2026, RMGAs improve by up to 65%.

Everything indicates that these figures will increase even more with the results of very relevant contests that will be put on the market during the Strategic Plan, such as the Duty Free Stores, which is the largest in the world and for which a strategy that implies more commercial area, more competition and longer-term contracts.

This recovery of traffic and commercial business occurs despite a context of global and sectoral risks among which the president has mentioned, first, geopolitical ones, such as the invasion of Ukraine, which impact the economy; second, purely macroeconomic ones, such as the rise in interest rates, general inflation and energy prices, and third, sectoral ones, such as structural changes in the cost base. In this environment, however, “Aena will continue to be the undisputed leader in safety and operational efficiency in its sector”, Lucena assured. Examples of actions already implemented to control costs are the contracts with third parties that have already been closed for the provision of services in the coming years. Aena has already signed 85% of these contracts for 2023, 60% for 2024 and 55% for 2025. In addition, a significant factor in this area will be the cost of energy, which will be contained in the medium term with the Aena Photovoltaic Plan. This project, which involves an investment of 350 million euro for the construction of solar plants to self-supply the airports, already has access and connection to the grid for 52% of its needs.

The Photovoltaic Plan is an example that environmental sustainability is crucial for the future of the aviation sector and that Aena has key projects underway. The company is the first Spanish company and one of the few in the world that renders accounts annually at its Shareholders’ Meeting, with the vote on the performance of its Climate Action Plan (PAC) that is part of the Sustainability Strategy of Aena.

The PAC will represent an investment of 550 million euro from 2021 to 2030 and the goals are ambitious: carbon neutrality in 2026 and zero net emissions in all the airports in the network in 2040, which means advancing the global commitment by 10 years of the aviation sector.

Aena also extends the concept of “sustainability” to a broader sphere, the social sphere, with actions that continuously contribute to the creation of value together with employees and the communities in which its airports are located. In the field of support for research and education, R+D+i and technology transfer are promoted in areas related to the sustainable transformation of air transport. It also highlights the development of social projects in the area of ​​the communities near the airports and, from the perspective of internal social responsibility, the most relevant areas of action are diversity and inclusion, with the promotion of a new equality plan; and the development of the professional career for the recruitment and retention of talent.

The Chairman has highlighted Aena’s main economic-financial objectives for this period. One of them will be the recovery of the consolidated EBITDA of 2019 between 2024 and 2025.

The EBITDA margin in Spain will also lead a path of sustained improvement, which will place it above 55% in 2025; and the good financial performance of the coming years will allow a pattern of deleveraging until reaching a net debt/EBITDA ratio in Spain of around 2x in 2026, better than in 2019, which will further strengthen financial solvency.

Internationally, current assets will represent 10% of EBITDA in 2026 and Aena aspires to incorporate as many that represent an additional 5% of EBITDA in 2026. “The international approach will be selective”, concluded the president.

Regarding Brazil, a strategic market for Aena in which 20% of the country’s traffic will be managed from 2023, the airport manager will continue with the execution of investments in the Northeast airports and will integrate the 11 airports awarded in August 2022 into the network In the most relevant, the one in Congonhas in Sao Paulo, the second with the highest passenger traffic in Brazil, Aena has designed an ambitious technical project that will comply with the safety and quality requirements defined by the Brazilian Government and will increase the commercial offer.

“We consider the recent operation in Brazil to be excellent,” explained Lucena.

“We have exceeded our expectations in terms of assessment and quality of the proposals received”, Lucena has summarised about the Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas Airport City project, of which the first 32 hectares for logistics purposes have recently been awarded, for approximately 170 million euro, with an additional 295 ha to give it continuity.

This project is therefore already a reality that is expected to be transferred to other airports, such as Josep Tarradellas Barcelona-El Prat, where the first launches are expected between 2024 and 2025 and a total of 151 ha are available; Málaga-Costa del Sol, Seville and Valencia, where the first tenders are expected between 2023 and 2024.