NATS Holdings Limited – Results for the year ended 31 March 2023
NATS Holdings Limited (NATS) today announced its results for the year ended 31 March 2023.
|Financial year ended 31 March||2023||2022|
|Revenue and regulatory allowances – £m||930.0||749.8|
|Profit before tax – £m||148.5||8.7|
|Debt-adjusted cash inflow/(outflow)1 – £m||58.1||(241.1)|
|Capital expenditure – £m||113.7||100.1|
|Net debt2 – £m||803.6||849.5|
|Gearing3 – (%)||52.3%||60.1%|
|Dividends – £m||nil||nil|
|Flights handled (millions)||2.24||1.29|
|Safety: risk-bearing Airprox4 (attributable to NATS)||0||0|
|Delay seconds per flight (en route delay attributable to NATS for calendar years 2022 and 2021)||10.2||0.3|
- Post-tax free cash flows after debt interest but excluding the proceeds of bonds issued, the cost of bonds redeemed and repayments or drawings of borrowing facilities. This alternative performance measure is explained in the annual report and accounts of NATS Holdings Limited.
- Excludes derivative financial instruments.
- Ratio of net debt (as defined by NERL’s Licence) to regulatory assets of the economically regulated business.
- 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.
2022/23 financial year key points
Flights recovered strongly after the lifting of travel restrictions in March 2022. NATS handled 2.24 million flights, which was a 75% increase on the prior year. NATS’ planning for recovery, whereby it retained critical skills and delivered simulation training, enabled it to support a safe regeneration and meet all of its safety targets.
NATS reported a profit of £148.5m, with a debt adjusted cash flow of £58.1m (see note 1 above). As for the prior year, the result includes an assessment of regulatory allowances for the Covid revenue shortfall which are being determined by the CAA’s retrospective reconciliation of revenue and costs.
While the result this year reflects the start of the sector’s recovery after the Covid pandemic, as for the results of the last two years, it is not yet supported by the equivalent level of debt-adjusted cash flow generation. This is because Covid suppressed flight volumes and income receipts.
NATS expects that, for the regulatory allowances outstanding, the CAA will require their recovery over 10-years from 2023 to support the sector’s recovery. NATS has financed accordingly with borrowings aligned with recovery of these allowances. The final step of NERL’s refinancing was completed during the year, with the issue of a further £145m of bonds repayable in 2033.
In October 2022, the CAA published its initial proposals for the NR23 price control. While the CAA recognises the challenge NATS faced during Covid, NATS in its response has highlighted its concern about material elements of their initial proposals. NATS has reiterated the importance of a price control with appropriate resources to deliver the NR23 plan which supports the increased traffic forecasts and the service customers have requested now and in the future. The CAA’s decision is expected in summer 2023.
CEO, Martin Rolfe said:
“It was a welcome relief to see air traffic volumes recover strongly last summer following the lifting of Covid travel restrictions. We had made a conscious decision during the pandemic to retain the essential skills to support the recovery. This meant we were able to ramp our operation back up very quickly and safely support the level of demand.
Our result this year also reflected the start of the sector’s recovery after the Covid pandemic but, as with the results of the two previous years, it is not yet supported by the equivalent level of cash flows on a debt-adjusted basis. Given its scale, we expect that the CAA will require the income shortfall we experienced during Covid to be recovered over an extended 10-year period.
We are committed to a net zero estate by 2035 with near-term science-based targets and a strategic objective to be carbon negative by 2040. We are also playing our part to support UK aviation to decarbonise by 2050. We recently modernised the airspace route network over South West England and Wales, which will enable more fuel efficient flight planning across one of the UK’s busiest air intersections for international flights.”
Chairman, Dr. Paul Golby said:
“NATS exists to ensure the skies are a safe and efficient environment for aviation. Our priority from the start of the year, which we delivered, was to support the safe return of air traffic as Covid travel restrictions were lifted.
In October 2022 the CAA published its initial proposals for NERL’s next five-year price control, as well as its retrospective reconciliation for calendar years 2020 to 2022. It is essential that the CAA’s final decision later this summer provides the resources necessary to support the sector’s recovery and for sustainable investment in the UK’s ATC infrastructure and recovery of the costs we incurred to provide a continuous ATC service during Covid.
I have been encouraged by the company’s approach to developing a diverse and inclusive place to work. Our people play an essential role in everything we do. We want our employees to feel valued and able to fulfil their potential in a workplace where their contribution is recognised and rewarded. Success is critical for attracting future talent and achieving our ambition to be a Top 25 employer.”
- View our Annual Report and Accounts for 2023
- The accounts of NATS Holdings Limited and its subsidiaries were approved by the Board on 29 June 2023 and are available from nats.aero/news/annual-report-accounts-2023. 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 Alix Partners, Deutsche Lufthansa AG, TUI Airways Limited and Virgin Atlantic Airways Limited.
- NATS (En Route) plc (NERL) is the core of NATS’ operations and accounts for more than 80% 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 profit before tax of £156.5m (2022: £5.1m 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 and Gatwick, the UK’s second largest 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. During the year its Indian subsidiary opened an office in Delhi. NATS Services reported a loss before tax of £17.0m (2022: £18.2m profit).