Middle East airline profits to roar back in 2018

An Emirates Airline Boeing 777 aircraft is seen next to an Airbus A330-300 as it takes off from Abidjan. Global aviation body IATA expects Middle East carriers to boost profits in 2018 after a turbulent year which hit airline earnings across the region. (AFP)
Updated 05 December 2017
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Middle East airline profits to roar back in 2018

LONDON: Middle Eastern airlines are forecast to record a significant improvement in profitability in 2018, according to a report from the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
After a year in which Middle East carriers were hit by the low oil price, US travel restrictions and geopolitical uncertainty, profits next year should double from $300 million to $600 million, said IATA in its outlook for the coming year.
While many problems remain, regional airlines had cut costs and made efficiencies to cope with the tougher trading environment, the report suggested.
IATA said: “Demand in 2018 is expected to grow by 7 percent, outpacing announced capacity expansion of 4.9 percent (the slowest growth since 2002). The region’s carriers face challenges to their business models, (including) competition from the new “super connector” in Istanbul. Despite the challenges, there is “positive momentum heading into 2018,” said the trade body
This year’s profit forecast for the region’s airlines has been revised downwards from the $400 million profit IATA forecast in June, which was a 63.6 percent drop from the $1.1 billion the airlines made in 2016.
IATA’s global summary predicted the airlines industry as a whole was expected to see its net profit rise to $38.4 billion in 2018, marking an improvement from the $34.5 billion expected this year.
The aviation watchdog said the 2017 forecast had been revised up from the $31.4 billion forecast in June.
IATA expects an improvement in net margin to 4.7 percent (up from 4.6 percent in 2017), with global revenues at $824 billion, up 9.4 percent on 2017, a 6 percent rise in passenger numbers to 4.3 billion. It expects cargo volumes to rise to 62.5 million tons, up 4.5 percent on 2017.
Also, record load factors are forecast for 2018 at around 81.4 percent, said the report.
IATA said strong demand, efficiencies and reduced interest payments would help airlines improve profitability, despite rising costs. 2018 was expected to be the fourth consecutive year of sustainable profits with a return on invested capital of 9.4 percent, exceeding the industry’s average cost of capital of 7.4 percent, it said.
Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s director general and CEO, said: “These are good times for the global air transport industry. More people than ever are traveling. The demand for air cargo is at its strongest level in over a decade. Employment is growing. More routes are being opened. Airlines are achieving sustainable levels of profitability. It’s still, however, a tough business, and we are being challenged on the cost front by rising fuel, labor and infrastructure expenses.”
Oil price inflation was a big factor with the black stuff expected to average $60 per barrel for Brent in 2018 against $54.20 per barrel in 2017. Jet fuel prices are expected to rise even more quickly to $73.8 per barrel — a 12.5 percent increase on 2017.
Airlines with low levels of hedging (in the US and China for example) were likely to feel the impact of these increases more immediately than those with higher average hedging ratios (Europe). The fuel bill is expected to be 20.5 percent of total costs in 2018 (up from 18.8 percent in 2017), said IATA.


SABIC prepares to meet investors to offer bond

Updated 25 September 2018
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SABIC prepares to meet investors to offer bond

  • The Kingdom’s petrochemical giant will be meeting investors in London, New York, Los Angeles and Boston from Sept. 25
  • SABIC has also confirmed the appointment of BNP Paribas and Citigroup as global coordinators on the sale

LONDON: Saudi Basic Industries Corp. (SABIC) is preparing to offer its dollar-denominated unsecured bond to the global market with investor meetings due to start this week.
The Kingdom’s petrochemical giant will be meeting investors in London, New York, Los Angeles and Boston from Sept. 25, according to a filing on the Saudi stock exchange on Tuesday.
The Saudi company is likely to be keen to tap into the heightened international interest in the Kingdom’s financial markets following the lifting of some restrictions on foreign investors’ activities at the start of the year.
SABIC has also confirmed the appointment of BNP Paribas and Citigroup as global coordinators on the sale, alongside HSBC Bank, Mitsubishi UFG Securities EMEA and Standard Chartered Bank acting as joint lead managers, in its Tadawul note.
The proposed issuance has been well-received so far by analysts with ratings agency Moody’s Investor Service assigning an ‘A1’ rating to the proposed senior unsecured notes to be issued by the financial vehicle, referred to as SABIC Capital II, and guaranteed by SABIC itself.
“SABIC’s A1 rating reflects its strong business position in the chemical sector and its ability to weather industry volatility, particularly given its healthy operational cash flows and conservative liquidity profile,” said Rehan Akbar, a senior analyst at Moody’s, in a note on Monday.

 

The bond is anticipated to be used in part to refinance an existing SR11.3 billion ($3 billion) one-year bridge loan raised in January this year to fund the company’s 24.99 percent stake in the Swiss chemical company Clariant, according to the Moody’s note. All regulatory requirements were completed on this acquisition earlier this month.
Cash proceeds from the bond may also be used to repay a $1 billion bond due on Oct. 3, according to Moody’s.
On Tuesday SABIC confirmed that the bond will be used mainly to refinance “outstanding financial obligations” of the company and its subsidiaries.
Analysts at rating agency S&P Global were also upbeat about SABIC’s outlook, with research published on Monday stating that the company has “strong profitability” via its KSA operations and a “strong” liquidity position.
“The debt issuance is helpful for the credit profile in the sense that it extends the company’s debt maturity profile and strengthens its liquidity position,” said Tommy Trask, corporate and infrastructure credit analyst at S&P Global.
The agency currently assigns the petrochemical firm an ‘A Minus’ rating, with a “stable outlook,” which it said reflects its “view on the sovereign as well as its expectations that SABIC will maintain high profitability under current benign industry conditions.”
S&P Global’s report said margins in the global chemical industry will “largely stabilize in 2018 following several years of improvement, attributable to the increase in commodity chemical capacity.”
However, it also warned that a key risk to credit quality is
the trend for mergers and acquisitions within the sector and the “potential negative impact on credit metrics from funding them with debt.”

FACTOID

SABIC operates in more than 50 countries across the world.