SAS FORWARD is a comprehensive business transformation plan that was launched in conjunction with the publication of the first quarter report for FY 2022 at the end of February. The aim of the plan is to secure long-term competitiveness for SAS in the global aviation industry.
Anko van der Werff, SAS President and CEO says: "During the fourth quarter, we have noted the highest number of passengers since the pandemic started. Our capacity increased 15% compared with the third quarter and grew 52% year-over-year. We are also proud to see that our Customer Satisfaction Index is increasing, meaning that not only our valued customers are continuing to choose us, but it also indicates that they are appreciating our product offering.
Overall underlying demand for travel was healthy during the summer and the trend continued through the fourth quarter, with an expected minor dip in October. We are now entering the slower winter months but are preparing for another active summer season in 2023 and are both rehiring as well as hiring to be able to meet the expected increased demand going forward.
SAS continues to make progress in our transformation plan SAS FORWARD and we reached important milestones in the Chapter 11 process during the fourth quarter. In August, SAS secured USD 700 million in debtor-in-possession (DIP) financing from Apollo Global Management. This substantial financing committment gives us a strong financial position to support our operations throughout the Chapter 11 process. Over the past months, we have struck agreements with aircraft lessors regarding concessions and various cost-savings initiatives in line with our objectives.
We look forward to continuing collaboration with all our stakeholders, to succeeding with the SAS FORWARD plan and to becoming a competitive and financially strong airline.
August 2022 – October 2022
- Revenue: MSEK 10,651 (5,762)
- Income before tax (EBT): MSEK -1,701 (-945)
- Income before tax and items affecting comparability: MSEK -1,626 (-911)
- Net income for the period: MSEK -1,238 (-744)
- Earnings per common share: SEK -0.17 (-0.12)
November 2021 – October 2022
- Revenue: MSEK 31,824 (13,958)
- Income before tax (EBT): MSEK -7,846 (-6,525)
- Income before tax and items affecting comparability: MSEK -7,941 (-6,382)
- Net income for the period: MSEK -7,048 (-6,523)
- Earnings per common share: SEK -0.97 (-0.94
Significant events during the Quarter
In the beginning of August, SAS entered into a debtor-in-possession (“DIP”) financing credit agreement for USD 700 million with funds managed by Apollo Global Management. The initial tranche of USD 350 million was drawn in September. SAS has signed a letter of support with Heart Aerospace for the option to add their new electric aircraft to the SAS regional aircraft fleet.
“Journeys That Matter” is the name of a new communication concept launched in September. The SAS FORWARD plan is progressing and new agreements were reached on amended terms and conditions for existing aircraft and equipment leases in the quarter with ten lessors for 36 aircraft. SAS has also rejected a number of lease contacts.
Significant events after the Quarter
Further agreements were reached regarding aircraft and equipment leases after the end of the quarter (in total, agreements have been reached with 13 lessors for 46 aircraft). SAS currently targets to complete its court-supervised process in the U.S. during the second half of 2023, the implementation of which is likely to entail additional legal proceedings in other jurisdictions than the U.S. As a result, there is no assurance that there will be any recovery for the shareholders of SAS AB. SAS expects that its operations will be unaffected by such legal proceedings and that it will continue to serve its customers as normal.
The fourth quarter is yet another quarter where we have noted the highest number of passengers since the pandemic started. Compared with the previous quarter, passengers flying with SAS increased 13% and the flown load factor reached approximately 77%. Our capacity increased 15% compared with the third quarter. SAS needs to continue its transformation to adapt to the new market conditions in order to be able to become more flexible, competitive and financially strong for the long term. Earnings before tax ended at negative SEK 1.7 billion, representing a quarter-on-quarter improvement of SEK 0.3 billion, or a year-on-year decrease of SEK 0.8 billion. As with previous quarters in 2022, the currencies and jet-fuel price have brought strong headwinds for our business.
Cost reductions across the business remain in focus to secure our cost competitiveness. Total operating expenses during the quarter ended at SEK 10.7 billion and total operating revenue landed at SEK 10.7 billion for the quarter. Total revenue increased 24% compared with the third quarter, a year-on-year improvement of approximately SEK 4.9 billion, but still 21% below the fourth quarter in 2019, which was unaffected by COVID-19.
The cash balance at the end of the quarter was SEK 8.7 billion. Operational cash flow during the quarter amounted to an inflow of SEK 0.4 billion, compared with an inflow of SEK 1.1 billion for the same period last year.
Update on progress with our transdormationplan SAS FORWARD
SAS FORWARD is a comprehensive business transformation plan that was launched in conjunction with the publication of the first quarter report for FY 2022 at the end of February. The aim of the plan is to secure long-term competitiveness for SAS in the global aviation industry. The plan aims to strengthen our financial position and achieve a sustainable cost structure with an annual cost reduction of approximately SEK 7.5 billion. As part of SAS FORWARD, we also plan to raise at least SEK 9.5 billion in new equity and convert more than SEK 20 billion of debt into equity.
SAS has made important progress in implementing the SAS FORWARD plan, having identified the full value of the SEK 7.5 billion target in reduced annual costs and we have continued to invest in our digital capabilities and sustainability efforts. The 5.5-year collective bargaining agreements reached between SAS and the SAS Scandinavia pilots’ unions in July are also a key element of SAS FORWARD. These important agreements have resulted in increased flexibility and productivity, but are still subject to approval by the US court. SAS also received support for the plan from the Swedish, Danish and Norwegian governments. All three states have indicated an intention to convert SAS debt and hybrids into equity, subject to certain conditions including regulatory approvals. Denmark has also published that, potentially, it may invest new capital, subject to all stakeholders’ participation in SAS FORWARD. However, much remains to be done.
To accelerate the implementation of key elements of the plan, SAS voluntarily filed for Chapter 11 in the U.S. on July 5. Chapter 11 is a legal process for financial restructuring conducted under U.S. federal court supervision. It has previously been used by a number of large international airlines to restructure. Through this process, SAS aims to reach agreements with key stakeholders, restructure our debt obligations, renegotiate our fleet contracts and emerge with a significant capital injection. SAS’ operations and flight schedule are unaffected by the Chapter 11 filing and we continue to serve our customers as normal. SAS targets to complete its court-supervised process in the U.S. during the second half of 2023, the implementation of which is likely to entail additional legal proceedings in other jurisdictions than the U.S. As a result, there is no assurance that there will be any recovery for the shareholders of SAS AB.
During the fourth quarter, SAS took important positive steps in the process by reaching agreements with several lessors to amend the terms of existing aircraft and equipment lease agreements. As of the date of publication of this year-end report, SAS has reached agreements with a total of 13 lessors, representing 46 aircraft. SAS has also rejected a number of lease contacts. For additional information, please refer to Note 1. This constitutes a major step in reconfiguring the fleet and achieving the SEK 7.5 billion in annual cost savings under the SAS FORWARD plan.
SAS secures USD 700m. in debtor-in-possession financing
In August, SAS secured USD 700 million, or approximately SEK 7.0 billion, in debtor-in-possession (DIP) financing from Apollo Global Management. DIP financing is a specialized type of bridge financing used by businesses that are restructuring through a Chapter 11 process. The DIP financing, along with cash generated from our ongoing operations, enables SAS to continue meeting its obligations throughout the Chapter 11 process.
A new communication concept is launched
The pandemic brought about changes in demand as well as travel patterns. In order to stay relevant in the overall travel market we launched a new communication concept in September. The campaign highlights the importance of traveling and represents SAS’ first brand campaign since 2020 and is called “Journeys that matter.” The new communication concept speaks to this new, wider target group. It emphasizes that traveling gives us new perspectives, experiences and lifelong memories. The revised and updated visual identity adds new warm and personal elements while retaining our characteristic core.
The coming Winter season
We have entered the winter season, and we remain cautious due to the prevailing uncertainties around the world. Traffic to and from Asia remains affected by COVID-19 restrictions as well as by the geopolitical situation in Eastern Europe, and Russian airspace remains closed.
In comparison with last winter, SAS has noted a general increase in demand for travel both to classic ski destinations and to warmer holiday destinations. For the winter program SAS continues to open new routes and schedules more flights to popular destinations. During the coming winter, SAS will operate more than 170 routes to 90 destinations. More capacity will be added and SAS is returning to popular winter destinations such as Miami, Sälen/Trysil, Innsbruck and Salzburg.
Looking ahead to the next summer season we are preparing for substantial recruitments and rehirings that have been initiated in order to meet the expected increased future demand.
The SAS FORWARD plan includes positioning SAS as a leader in sustainable aviation. SAS will continue to invest in modern fuel-efficient aircraft, sustainable aviation fuels, emerging technologies, and sustainable products and services. By 2025 we will reduce our CO2 emissions by at least 25% compared with 2005. During the quarter, we signed an important letter of support with Heart Aerospace for the option to add their new electric aircraft, ES-30, to the SAS regional aircraft fleet. This has the potential of being a significant step on SAS’ sustainability journey, enabling zero-emission flights on routes within Scandinavia.
We appreciate the feedback we receive from our passengers. We are looking to increase personalization and improve our digital tools, as well as develop partnerships to increase our customer offering. We will continue to launch new exciting routes and will increase our frequencies.
We are engaging with other stakeholders as part of the next phase of the Chapter 11 process, which includes launching an equity solicitation process to obtain the capital necessary to implement our SAS FORWARD plan and working to build consensus for a plan of reorganization.
My colleagues at SAS are working really hard and are doing their very best to ensure that every aspect of the customer journey is as good as it possibly can be. I am extremely grateful for all their efforts.
As always, we look forward to welcoming our customers on board our aircraft".
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She holds a Bachelor's degree in Communication & Mass Media from Panteion University of Political & Social Studies of Athens and she has been editor and editor-in-chief in various economic magazines and newspapers.