Company performance

On 3 July 2017, NATS Holdings Limited (NATS) announced its results for the year ended 31 March 2017.

Financial year ended 31 March 2017 2016
Financial highlights:
Revenue – £m 919.3 898.1
Profit before tax and goodwill impairment – £m 136.5 137.1
Profit before tax – £m 125.5 44.4
Capital expenditure – £m 156.4 147.6
Net debt1 – £m 132.7 303.3
Gearing2 – (%) 35.9% 49.1%
Dividends3 – £m 24.0 81.7
Operational highlights:
Flights handled (millions) 2.45 2.28
Safety: risk-bearing Airprox4 (attributable to NATS) 0 0
Delay seconds per flight (en route delay attributable to NATS) 10.9 4.3
Cumulative % reduction in enabled CO2 savings (average per flight against a 2006 baseline) 5.0% 4.7%


  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 2017 the company paid an interim dividend for the year ending 31 March 2018 of £28.5m.
  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.

Martin Rolfe, NATS CEO, said:

“I am pleased with our performance. We safely handled 7.6% more flights than 2016. This was the most rapid growth in a decade and much higher than the CAA’s forecast for the current regulatory period (RP2). While customers benefited from our real price reductions last year, the related reductions in revenue to the company were more than offset by additional revenue from the increase in the number of flights.  Overall, our profit before tax at £126m was £82m better, mainly reflecting a reduced goodwill impairment charge.

“The basic structure of the UK’s airspace was designed 50 years ago when traffic volumes were far lower than today’s and it was evident last summer that airspace in the South East is now operating to its maximum capacity during the busiest times. Our primary objective is to ensure that all flights are handled safely.  For this reason, on certain days, we regulated traffic flows in some locations which resulted in more air traffic delay than recent years.  Our service continues to be extremely good in comparison to Europe, with delay amounting to one third of the European average.

“The longer term solution to minimising delay is the combination of new technology and modern UK airspace structures, and we are in action on both of these. This year we deployed a new system to control upper airspace from our Prestwick Centre.  Progress on airspace modernisation is critically important to avoid increased delays and constraining aviation growth in the UK.  This needs to be supported by clear government policy, which is currently going through consultation.

We have also developed our digital remote control tower capability, which now enables us to offer innovative air traffic solutions to airport customers.”

Dr. Paul Golby, NATS Chairman, said:

“In the first two years of RP2 we have controlled significantly more flights than we expected. Following changes in the business environment and industry developments in technology, we revised our investment plan to accelerate the deployment of technology necessary for the UK’s contribution to a Single European Sky. This will provide more capacity to meet ever growing demand, particularly when combined with the essential and overdue modernisation of airspace that we expect to form part of the UK Government’s aviation strategy.

“Next year we will be consulting our customers on our Initial Performance Plan for RP3 (2020-2024). As the RP2 ATC environment is turning out to be quite different to the one assumed, we will be making the case for a Performance Plan in RP3 with more operational and financial flexibility to respond to changing industry conditions and to provide enhanced operational resilience. We think this is in the interests of our customers and the travelling public.”

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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