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SAS: Q4 2021 year-end results burdened by the pandemic

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Demand and ticket sales are increasing, however, uncertainties continue to affect the ramp-up.

During the quarter, the number of passengers increased and more tickets were sold Operations were scaled up to meet demand while more destinations opened up. SAS signed an agreement for the pre-delivery payment financing of about USD 100 million, covering ten A320neo aircraft with deliveries into Q2 FY2023.

Significant events after the Quarter
SAS established a partnership with Vattenfall, Shell and LanzaTech to investigate large-scale production of synthetic sustainable aviation fuel

Novenber 2020 – October 2021

  • Revenue: MSEK 13,958 (20,513)
  • Income before tax (EBT): MSEK -6,525 (-10,097)
  • Income before tax and items affecting comparability: MSEK -6,382 (-8,565)
  • Net income for the period: MSEK -6,523 (-9,232)
  • Earnings per common share: SEK -0.94 (-21.45)

Anko van der Werff,  President and CEO SAS comments: "It is encouraging to note the continued positive trend from the summer, with demand and ticket sales rising. However, 2021 was one of the most challenging years in the history of the aviation industry and the future remains hard to predict, primarily due to challenges connected to the ongoing pandemic.

Improved quarterly results still affected by the ongoing pandemic
Customer demand continued to increase through the year’s last quarter and as a result, our capacity increased 43% compared with the third quarter. Passengers flying with SAS increased 73% compared to the last quarter and the flown load factor reached approximately 60%, an increase of 7 percentage points compared with the earlier quarter. Still, uncertainties remain regarding the development of the COVID-19 pandemic and the transformation of SAS has to continue – to adapt to the new market. Earnings before tax ended at negative SEK 0.9 billion, which is an improvement of SEK 0.5 billion compared with last quarter, or a SEK 2.3 billion improvement year-on-year.

Total revenue increased 45% compared with the third quarter, an improvement of approximately SEK 2.7 billion compared with last year, but still 57% below the fourth quarter in 2019, which was unaffected by COVID-19.

Adapting SAS to a new market reality
Cost reductions across all of SAS remain in focus to optimize our competitive capability. Total operating expenses during the quarter ended at SEK 6.2 ­billion and total operating revenue landed at SEK 5.8 billion. Market dynamics have changed substantially during the pandemic and affect the entire airline industry. This requires SAS to take the next steps in the development of our operating model to ensure SAS is cost efficient and competitive. We are starting operation of SAS Connect out of Copenhagen in early 2022 and are evaluating possibilities to expand SAS Connect and to open bases in Stockholm and Oslo during the year.

We are also evaluating fleet options to handle thinner flows of passengers in our network – to ensure that we can offer competitive advantages, an attractive timetable for customers and lower the total environmental footprint.

We have now had a positive operating cash flow during two consecutive quarters. The work to preserve liquidity continues and at the end of the quarter, the cash position was at SEK 4.3 billion, which is similar to the cash position of SEK 4.4 billion at the end of Q3. During the quarter, SAS signed a predelivery payment financing of approximately USD 100 million that will cover financing of ten A320neo aircraft with deliveries into Q2 2023. The credit line that was established during Q3 with the major shareholders, is still fully undrawn, and provides a solid liquidity buffer during the pandemic recovery phase, should it be needed.

Developing our customer offering and re-opening routes
When restrictions and demand allow, we will open more routes, and this winter we are flying more than 150 routes to 90 destinations. SAS has to remain agile to be able to quickly respond to changes in customer demand, which will be one of the success factors for airlines going forward. As a direct result of the US opening up for travelers, we have increased the number of flights to and from the US. SAS operates new, fuel-efficient A350 Airbus aircraft to the US, which have 30% lower fuel consumption compared to the aircraft they are replacing.

We also continue the development of our customer offering through the determined work with digitalization and personalization. For example, by expanding our SAS Go Light on our total network, where customers can choose competitively priced tickets and then add travel extras such as bags and seat selection.

SAS is a global leader in sustainable aviation. Reducing climate-impacting carbon emissions and striving to increase the supply and use of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) are important components of that ambition. We are therefore proud to be part of a collaboration with Vattenfall, Shell and Lanzatech, to investigate the production of the world’s first synthetic sustainable aviation fuel. When full production is up and running, it could provide SAS with up to 25% of its requirement for sustainable aviation fuel in the 2030s.

Looking ahead
We remain cautious due to prevailing uncertainties, but see that underlying demand is healthy once restrictions are lifted, both for business and leisure travel. Short-term effect of recent developments needs yet to be fully analyzed, however we remain optimistic for the peak periods ahead of us. During the pandemic, we see that demand for travel has changed and SAS expects a greater number of leisure travelers and even more intense competition in the future.

I am grateful for all the hard work that all my colleagues at SAS are carrying out during our transformation, to ensure our performance remains at a high level and to always take care of our customers in the best possible way. Together with dedicated colleagues, a strong brand and operational excellence, we are working our way through these challenging times.

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