Air Berlin results 2008Air Berlin boosts turnover but reports loss for 2008
Even in the face of an increasingly challenging economic environment, turnover of the second-largest German airline company for the 2008 business year (31 December) increased by 6.7 percent to EUR 3.4 billion. The number of passengers transported increased by 1.2 percent to 28.6 million, despite a targeted seat capacity reduction to 36.4 million.
Furthermore, Air Berlin improved EBITDAR (Earnings before interest, leasing expenses, depreciation, amortization, interest and taxes) to EUR 477 million, i.e. an increase of 11.6 percent. Improved revenues in combination with reduced expenditures resulted in Air Berlin reporting a positive EBIT (Earnings before interest and taxes) of EUR 14.2 million at the 2008 year-end press conference in Berlin. This represents an improvement of EUR 35.7 million over the previous year.
In essence, two opposing influencing factors characterized income development in 2008. On the one hand, the "Jump" performance improvement program led to a marked improvement in operating income. In this manner, despite the high additional costs due to the sharp increase in fuel prices, operating profit (EBITDAR) increased by 11.6 percent. On the other hand, a considerable weakening in financial performance set in. This was mainly caused by a high interest expense with no effect on liquidity, and was a result of the critical distortions in the global financial markets. Consolidated profit sank from minus EUR 40 million to minus EUR 75 million.
For the 2008 business year, financial performance retreated to minus EUR 72 million (2007: minus EUR 39.9 million). This development results essentially from expenses connected with the foreign exchange hedging of USD-denominated loans for aircraft financing. These loans are primarily hedged via Cross Currency Interest Rate Swaps (CCIRS), wherein market value changes of the interest component are compensated by currency-dependent translation effects. In the course of the fourth quarter, as a result of the chaotic conditions in the global financial markets, swap rates fell substantially within a very short time period. For example, the relevant five-year maturities fell by almost one- third, i.e. by more than 150 basis points. Due to this development, the interest component of the CCIRS currency hedging is subject to market value changes with no effect on liquidity, amounting to minus EUR 29 million, which had to be included in the financial results. In the course of paying back the USD loans, these losses will be cut back gradually.
Over the next two business years, Air Berlin will especially focus on further strengthening profitability. For that purpose, the successfully implemented "Jump" performance program, which has led to a significant improvement of turnover, income per available seat kilometer (ASK) and revenue per passenger kilometer (RPK), will be of prime importance.
Operations will be subjected to a continuous and strict cost control, and any opportunities for performance improvement on the ground and in the air will be consistently explored and implemented. In this context, the introduction of the latest technologies, such as the Q400 turboprop aircraft, first used in 2008 and featuring significantly lower fuel consumption, is of great importance. Air Berlin had ordered a total of ten Q400s, two of which were put into service in 2008. The remaining eight aircraft are expected to be put into operation by August 2009, replacing older aircraft.