NATS Holdings Limited – Results for the year ended 31 March 2022
NATS Holdings Limited (NATS) today announced its results for the year ended 31 March 2022.
|Financial year ended 31 March||2022||2021|
|Revenue and regulatory allowances – £m||749.8||823.0|
|Profit/(loss) before tax – £m||8.7||(37.8)|
|Cash used in operations – £m||(172.5)||(264.5)|
|Capital expenditure – £m||100.1||78.8|
|Net debt1 – £m||849.5||502.8|
|Gearing2 – (%)||60.1%||46.7%|
|Dividends3 – £m||nil||nil|
|(Loss)/profit before tax by principal operating entity:|
|NATS (En Route) plc||(5.1)||(34.2)|
|NATS (Services) Limited||18.2||(8.1)|
|Flights handled (millions)||1.29||0.66|
|Safety: risk-bearing Airprox4 (attributable to NATS)||0||0|
|Delay seconds per flight (en route delay attributable to NATS for calendar years 2020 and 2019)||0.3||1.0|
|Airspace efficiency score (3Di)5||22.8||23.9|
- Excludes derivative financial instruments.
- Ratio of net debt (as defined by NERL’s Licence) to regulatory assets of the economically regulated business.
- Paid in financial year.
- An Airprox is a situation in which the safety of the aircraft was or may have been compromised in the opinion of a pilot or a controller.
- The three-dimensional inefficiency score (3Di) measures the fuel efficiency of flight profiles. NATS has made the 3Di environmental insight tool freely available to aviation stakeholders to use to track their carbon efficiency.
2021/22 financial year key points
NATS reported a profit of £8.7m, after refinancing costs of £41.7m, albeit cash from operations was an outflow of £172.5m. As for the prior year, the result includes an assessment of regulatory allowances, made in accordance with applicable accounting standards, for the Covid revenue shortfall which are being determined by the CAA’s retrospective reconciliation of revenue and costs due in early 2023. The prior year loss included redundancy costs, which were principally voluntary, and a goodwill impairment charge.
Covid continued to have a significant impact on NATS’ operation where the priority continued to be the health and wellbeing of employees while maintaining a safe and resilient service for customers. The key skills and capacity to safely support the operational recovery of aviation have been retained.
NATS handled 1.29m flights as Covid travel restrictions lifted during the year. Whilst a 95% increase on the prior year, this was still only equivalent to 50% of pre-pandemic volumes, which was the key driver in the operating cash outflow before capital investment and financing.
In June 2021, NERL, NATS’ regulated business, completed a full refinancing of its debt structure. It secured £1.6bn of funding by issuing £750m of unsecured bonds and agreeing £850m of new unsecured bank facilities. This enabled the repayment of more expensive secured bonds in place since 2003 and of existing bank borrowings. The refinancing ensures NATS is well placed for a range of recovery outcomes.
NERL presented its business plan for the NR23 five-year price control to the CAA for its review and decision in early 2023 . The plan reflected an extensive consultation with stakeholders. It delivers a safe and resilient air traffic service at affordable prices to airspace users while ensuring NERL is able to finance its activities. It provides capacity for flight volumes to grow back above 2019 levels during NR23 while enabling environmental and fuel benefits.
CEO, Martin Rolfe said:
“The aviation sector appears to be at something of an inflection point now with Covid. Air traffic volumes have grown strongly since the start of the 2022, albeit with considerable variability. While this has presented challenges across the sector, throughout the pandemic we have retained the essential skills to support the recovery in aviation. This was one of our key considerations when assessing available options for cost reductions in response to Covid which were necessary to protect our liquidity. Our focus throughout has been ensuring we could safely support traffic regeneration while continuing to protect our employees.
While recent traffic levels have been encouraging, it remains to be seen whether the rate of recovery will endure through the summer and beyond given the challenging economic environment and geopolitical situation. Normally we would have stable trends and reliable forecasts of future air traffic as we develop our price control plans. In order to achieve the plan, we will be looking for the price control set by the CAA to recognise this uncertainty and provide the resources to deliver the operational service, technology change and airspace modernisation to meet stakeholder priorities for the future.
Alongside the company, our employees have faced exceptional challenges during this period. Nevertheless, we have done everything we can to support our employees, protecting everyone as much as possible, both in terms of health and wellbeing as well as job security and pay. While, similar to many companies, challenges inevitably remain we continue to engage and consult in a constructive and positive manner, seeking to balance the recognition of the contribution our employees make and the wider difficulties facing the aviation sector.”
Chairman, Dr. Paul Golby said:
“The Covid-19 pandemic continued to have a significant impact on aviation and our operation. Our licence requires us to provide a service capable of meeting, on a continuing basis, any reasonable level of demand. While air traffic volumes improved on the prior year, the cash receipts received for this level of flights fell far below the cost of keeping airspace open and safe during the pandemic. Accordingly, our financial focus continued to be on our liquidity and continuing to limit expenditure to what was essential.
Last summer we completed a full debt refinancing which bolstered our financial resilience to the benefit of the aviation sector overall and to ensure we are well placed for a range of recovery outcomes. Operationally, we maintained our focus on protecting our employees while delivering a safe and resilient ATC service. We have taken the actions necessary to support the recovery in aviation by retaining critical skills while also operating cost efficiently.
During the period since Covid, the Board has assessed the group’s strategy, its resilience and considered the opportunities likely to arise post-pandemic. This review considered longer-term objectives for the business through to 2040 and recognises NATS’ role as provider of the nation’s critical airspace infrastructure, anticipating growth in demand from new airspace users, the importance of our talented employees and our role in a sustainable future for aviation.”
- The accounts of NATS Holdings Limited and its subsidiaries were approved by the Board on 30 June 2022 and are available from nats.aero/news/annual-report-accounts-2022. 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, the Pension Protection Fund, easyJet Airline Company Limited and USS Sherwood Limited. Nominal shareholdings in The Airline Group are retained by Deutsche Lufthansa AG, Thomas Cook Airlines Limited (in Liquidation), TUI Airways 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) and operates under licence from the Secretary of State for Transport. NERL reported a loss before tax of £5.1m (2021: £34.2m loss).
- NATS (Services) Limited provides airport air traffic and related engineering services at most of the UK’s major airports, including Heathrow, the world’s busiest dual runway airport. It provides defence services to the UK MOD through Aquila, a joint venture, including air traffic services at six airfields and asset and service support. In the UK, it also provides information, design and data services to airlines and airspace users. Its international services are provided primarily to customers in Asia Pacific and the Middle East. NATS Services reported a profit before tax of £18.2m (2021: £8.1m loss).