Company performance

On 20 June 2016, NATS Holdings Limited (NATS) announced its results for the year ended 31 March 2016.

Financial year ended 31 March 2016 2015
Financial highlights:
Revenue – £m 898.1 922.4
Profit before tax, goodwill impairment & exceptional redundancy costs (in 2015) – £m  137.1 226.5
Profit before tax – £m 44.4 200.3
Capital expenditure – £m 147.6 153.5
Net debt1 – £m 303.3 378.7
Gearing2 – (%) 49.1% 53.4%
Dividends3 – £m 81.7 77.0
Operational highlights:
Flights handled 2,278,000 2,216,000
Safety: risk-bearing Airprox4 (attributable to NATS) 0 1
Delay seconds per flight (en route delay attributable to NATS) 4.3 2.2
Cumulative % reduction in enabled CO2 savings (average per flight against a 2006 baseline) 4.3% 4.2%


  1. Excludes derivative financial instruments
  2. Ratio of net debt to regulatory assets of the economically regulated business (NATS (En Route) plc)
  3. Paid in financial year.  In May 2016 the company declared and paid an interim dividend for the year ending 31 March 2017 of £24m.
  4. An Airprox is a situation in which, in the opinion of a pilot or a controller, the distance between aircraft as well as their relative positions and speed have been such that the safety of the aircraft involved was or may have been compromised.

CEO, Martin Rolfe said:

Martin Rolfe

Martin Rolfe

“As indicated last year, revenue and profit were lower this year.  Our prices are reducing significantly following the 2014 regulatory review and in response to competition in the UK airport contract market.

Profit reduced through lower revenue, increases in pension costs and depreciation charges, and a higher goodwill impairment charge than last year.

“It was another very safe year for the 2.28 million flights we handled in the UK (3% more than 2015) and benchmarking against our peers around the world confirms we are meeting, and in some cases setting, safety best practice.

We continue to look for ways to reduce safety risk and introduced measures over the winter which further improved safety performance.

“Average delay per flight was also good, albeit marginally higher than the previous year, and we were about seven times better than the European average.

Our introduction of Time-Based Separation at Heathrow contributed significantly to our good performance by improving landing rates in strong headwinds.

“This year we started to implement our strategy to integrate and deploy the technology necessary for the UK’s contribution to a Single European Sky and we achieved the two early milestones we set ourselves.

We also renewed or won a number of important airport contracts and, just as importantly for customers, smoothly transferred Gatwick to a new provider.”

Chairman, Dr. Paul Golby said:

“We knew that the RP2 period would be challenging as a result of tougher regulatory targets and increased competition for the provision of air traffic services at UK airports.

NATS is well equipped to meet these challenges and has a clear future focus to:

  • deliver a safe, efficient and reliable service from our air traffic control centres and airport towers;
  • transform the business through the integration and deployment of Single European Sky ATM Research programme (SESAR) technologies; and
  • win and retain commercial UK business and explore sound international opportunities as they arise.”

Points to note

  • The accounts of NATS Holdings Limited and its subsidiaries were approved by the Board on 20 June 2016 and are subject to formal adoption by shareholders at the Annual General Meeting to be held on 28 July 2016.  NATS Holdings Limited is the parent company of the NATS group.
  • NATS Holdings Limited operates through a Private Public Partnership (PPP) and is owned by the UK Government (48.9%); The Airline Group Limited (41.9%); LHR Airports Limited (4.2%) and the NATS Employee Share Trust Limited (5.0%). The Airline Group is a consortium including British Airways plc, Monarch Airlines Retirement Benefit Plan Limited, easyJet Airline Company Limited and USS Sherwood Limited.  Nominal shareholdings in The Airline Group are retained by Deutsche Lufthansa AG, Thomson Airways Limited, Thomas Cook Airline Limited and Virgin Atlantic Airways Limited.
  • NATS (En Route) plc (NERL) is the core of NATS’ operations and accounts for more than 75% of the NATS group’s revenue.  It is the sole provider of air traffic control services for aircraft flying en route in UK airspace and the eastern part of the North Atlantic.  It provides approach services to aircraft arriving at or departing from the major airports around London and air traffic control services to helicopters operating in the North Sea.  NERL also has a long-term agreement to provide the military with engineering, surveillance and communications services.  It is economically regulated by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) within the framework of the European Commission (EC) Single European Sky (SES) and operates under licence from the Secretary of State for Transport.  It operates from two air traffic control centres, at Swanwick in Hampshire and Prestwick in Ayrshire. NERL reported a profit before tax of £22.4m (2015: £172.7m).
  • NATS (Services) Limited provides air traffic services at most of the UK’s major airports, including Heathrow, the world’s busiest dual runway airport.  NATS Services also sells engineering, consultancy (including training), defence and aviation information management services to customers in the UK and overseas. NATS Services reported a profit before tax of £22.3m (2015: £27.9m).


Air Traffic Control Disruption: 12th December 2014

The independent enquiry into the system failure at Swanwick on 12 December has published its final report. You can download the full report below and read NATS’ response here.

  • Letter to Dame Deirdre Hutton from Martin Rolfe – 14th October 2016 PDF (0.31 MB)
  • Implementation of the NATS-only recommendations of the Independent Enquiry PDF (1.14 MB)
  • Full Report – System Failure 12 December 2014 PDF (4.73 MB)
  • Interim Report – System Failure 12 December 2014 PDF (0.66 MB)

The CAA’s report into actions taken by the CAA to respond to each of the recommendations addressed to the CAA and to the CAA and NATS jointly.

Air Traffic Control Disruption: 7th December 2013

A Report to the Civil Aviation Authority

A technical failure at the Swanwick ATC Centre early on Saturday 7th December 2013 caused significant disruption to air travel throughout that day. While NATS’ contingency arrangements enabled over 90% of flights to operate that Saturday, some 300 flights were cancelled, hundreds more delayed and thousands of passengers left frustrated at airports.

NATS recognises that it suffered a significant failure and regrets the considerable impact it had on air travel. Having issued an unreserved apology to all affected, NATS launched immediate investigations into why this system failure resulted in such disruption. These investigations have identified a range of improvements against a background of high levels of resilience in NATS’ operations and systems. This report presents the findings of those investigations.

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