Turkish airports operator TAV reports small 1Q2022 operating profit as CEO steps down after 25 years


Summary

  • TAV Airports announces a small operating profit and positive EBITDA in 1Q2022.
  • EBITDA margin is low by international standards.
  • TAV’s CEO is standing down.
  • His final briefing focuses on Antalya Airport, which has become TAV’s flagship, and its latest acquisition: Almaty Airport.
  • TAV remains at risk because of a reliance on tourist passengers from countries such as Russia and Iran, and because most of its external investments are also in ‘at risk’ countries.  

TAV announces small operating profit, restored EBITDA, in 1Q2022

Turkish airports operator TAV has reported a small operating profit in the first quarter of 2022 (1Q2022) in line with other reports released by airport operators in the past few days.

Measure

Amount

(EUR, million)

Comparison with 2021 (+/-, percentage)

Revenue

149.2

+146.3%

Operating profit (loss)

9.7

Compared to a loss of EUR33.3 million in p-c-p

Net profit

(-19.6)

Compared to a profit of EUR62.3 million in the p-c-p

EBITDA

33.0

Compared to a loss of EUR4.0 in the p-c-p

EBITDA margin

22.1%

Passengers

10 million

+131%

Total assets

3874

Cash & cash equivalents

164.3

Total liabilities

2860

TAV also recorded a positive EBITDA of EUR33 million compared to a small loss in 1Q2021.

The EBITDA margin, at 22%, is small, compared (for example) to the 53% recorded by Heathrow Airport Holdings for the same period.

However, 88% of EBITDA was recovered in the quarter versus 2019, which is the highest level of recovery achieved since the pandemic and TAV regards this as signifying it is “very close to achieving full recovery in its return to pre-pandemic quarterly EBITDA levels”.

CEO Sani Şener steps down after 25 years at the helm

The financial statement was presented by TAV Airports Holding CEO and Executive Board Member Dr M. Sani Şener in his final function in that position, as he is standing down from 01-May-2022 while continuing as Deputy Chair of the Board of TAV Airports and as a shareholder of the company.

Serkan Kaptan, who has worked for TAV since the founding of the company and who has been serving as Deputy CEO for the past six years, will be appointed as CEO.

Other changes see Franck Mereyde appointed as Executive Member of the Board and Chair of the Executive Management Committee. The CFO, Burcu Geriş, will be appointed as Deputy CEO while continuing her role as CFO.

Antalya Airport a focus of his final briefing – the most substantial asset

A large segment of comment was reserved for the Antalya Airport, the second busiest in Turkey in 2019, having overtaken Istanbul’s Sabiha Gökçen airport. Antalya airport is, ergo, TAV’s most substantial asset now that the group no longer operates any Istanbul airport, and effectively the company’s flagship.

In May-2018 TAV Airports obtained approval from the Turkish Competition Authority for the acquisition of a 49% stake in Antalya Airport from IC Ictas, securing a EUR300 million loan to do so.

That airport was originally privatised in 2007 by way of a consortium of Fraport and IC Ictas for all three terminals until 2024, the General Directorate of State Airports Authority of Turkey (DHMI) remaining the owner and operator of the airside assets and facilities, with passenger terminals operated on a BOT concession by Fraport and ICF. Under the 2018 deal TAV took over ICF’s 49% stake.

Subsequently, Fraport and TAV Airports were awarded the tender to operate Antalya Airport from 01-Jan-2027 (the conclusion of the existing deal) until 31-Dec-2051, following a EUR7.3 billion bid.

Under the agreement, infrastructure projects including expansion of the domestic terminal from 37,000sqm to 78,000sqm and the international terminal from 82,000sqm to 190,000sqm will be completed before the operational period begins. The partners will improve the infrastructure before that period begins and also open another 70,000sqm international terminal in 2040, doubling the airport’s capacity.

Total investment is estimated at EUR765 million.

Dr Şener said, “In the first quarter, we placed EUR375 million of equity in the New Antalya SPV, financed the rest of the upfront rent payment and made the upfront rent payment of EUR1.8 billion to the State Airports Authority of Turkey. The completion of this financing amid significant geopolitical turbulence was a remarkable achievement testifying to the quality of Antalya as an asset and to the level of intellectual capital accumulated at TAV Airports”.

Antalya had been growing passenger numbers steadily from 2017 until the coronavirus pandemic set in.

Immediately before 2017 growth had been negatively influenced by Turkey’s own ‘geopolitical turbulence’, in the form of economic problems and the Jul-2016 coup d’état attempt.

Traffic down from Russia – a major tourist market

Referring to Turkish air traffic generally, Dr Şener said that 2022 Turkish traffic “so far is very strong for all of our major source markets except for Ukraine and Russia with Antalya[,] preliminary Apr-2022 international traffic showing -7% vs. 2019. We have started to reap the benefits of diversification efforts in Turkish tourism. Although there is a marked decrease in our Russian and Ukrainian guests, other source markets have made up for most of the lost traffic so far in Apr-2022. Germany is +25% above 2019, UK +67% above, Iran +41% above, and the remaining source markets are +8% above 2019.”

Russia has always been a major tourist market for Turkey, mainly in the form of incoming vacationers. In 2019 Russians accounted for 15.6% of visitors to Turkey (#1 position), ahead of Germany on 11.2%.

In 2021 the margin of difference between the two was similar but the Russian visitor ratio had climbed to 19%, with Germany on 12.5%. Ukraine did not figure at all in either year, with visitors accounting for 1% or less of the total.

Coastal resorts like Antalya are popular with Russians both for short visits and for residence.

With the global political paradigm in a state of flux – to put it mildly, and worsening – a reliance on visitors from states such as Russia and Iran to Turkey (a NATO member country) could prove to be troublesome for some time.

Almaty Airport benefits from lack of ‘seasonality’

Dr Şener also referred to Almaty Airport, serving the largest city in Kazakhstan and former capital, which was acquired (100%, of which 85% is to TAV) along with associated jet fuel facilities in Apr-2021 – the most recent new transaction by TAV.

The previously publicly owned airport was operated by JSC Almaty International Airport.

In this case the partner is VPE Capital, a specialist Moscow-based Emerging Market asset manager, which holds 15% of the equity through the Kazakhstan Infrastructure Fund. The enterprise value was USD415 million.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, USD50 million of the purchase price is subject to an earn-out scheme, contingent on achievement of a certain level of traffic at pre-determined dates.

Dr Şener emphasised that one of the benefits of the Almaty purchase, even if it had not been foreseen at the time, is that seasonality there is very low. This proved to be beneficial in the low season where Almaty produced 30% of consolidated EBITDA in the previous quarter and 32% in this quarter. This helped TAV’s non-Turkish revenue to reach 63% of consolidated revenue.

Passenger traffic actually grew by +69% in 2021, after a fall of -44% in 2020, but that upward trend has not continued in 2022, with further falls in the first quarter when COVID cases again spiked in Kazakhstan.

Turkish airport traffic generally up in 1Q2022, but still negative compared to 2020

Apart from Antalya, Dr Şener paid scant attention in his message to other Turkish airports or those outside Turkey which come under TAV’s purview.

There are five airports in all in Turkey; at Ankara and four coastal resorts including Antalya.

At all of these airports there were continuing traffic losses in 1Q2022 compared to 2020 – Antalya, -10.2% (4ppts higher loss than for TAV airports as a whole); Izmir, -22.4%; and Ankara, -27.3%.

However, there were substantial gains in all cases compared to 2021.

TAV operates where others fear to tread

TAV is otherwise represented, inter alia, at two airports in Georgia. In Georgia at the capital, Tbilisi, which could be threatened by any escalation of Russian territorial ambition.

Also two in Libya, which is perennially a risky country in which to do business.

At less risk, at least for now, are investments at two airports in Macedonia, also at Zagreb (operational management within a consortium) and Riga (operation of commercial areas).

In reality, few of TAV’s ex-Turkish investments can really be considered as “safe” ones. In Jan-2022 Russian troops helped put down an uprising in Kazakhstan, since when relationships between the two have deteriorated.

All this perhaps goes some way to explaining, in Dr Şener’s parting communiqué, the corporate focus on the largest asset – which is in Turkey – and the newest. He said, “We have experienced many crises during the history of TAV and have always prevailed stronger at the end of each. Therefore, I can say that resilience is imprinted in TAV’s DNA”.

It will have to continue to demonstrate that resilience in years to come.



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