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Spain's Aena says passenger traffic soars, costs too

Spain's Aena says passenger traffic soars, costs too
Spain's Aena says passenger traffic soars, costs too Copyright Thomson Reuters 2022
Copyright Thomson Reuters 2022
By Reuters
Published on Updated
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By Inti Landauro and Corina Pons

MADRID - Spanish airport operator Aena said on Wednesday it expects a return to pre-pandemic levels of traffic this month, although profitability is lagging as revenues rise more slowly than passenger numbers and energy prices have driven up costs.

The company estimated that passenger traffic in Spain will have returned to the 2019 level in October and it said it expects continued momentum as airlines offer 5.3% more seats this winter than in 2019-2020.

Aena expects overall traffic in 2022 will be higher than its prior forecast of 85% of 2019 traffic volume.

"The traffic is performing exceptionally well," Aena's CFO Jose Leo told a call with analysts.

Leo also said the airports the company operates in Brazil exceeded the passenger traffic volumes of 2019 by 8% in September and that nothing indicated any major setbacks would end the trend over the coming months.

But even though 60% more passengers went through its airports in the third quarter, Aena's overall revenues rose a modest 33%, the company said.

The company's commercial revenues, its share of business made from airport shops, fell 13% after Spain imposed a price cap during the COVID-19 pandemic to protect shop owners.

As a result third-quarter net profit of 335 million euros ($335.80 million) was 11% lower than expected, RBC's analyst Stephanie D'Ath said on Wednesday. Shares traded 0.3% higher.

Aena's operating expenses jumped in the first nine months from the same period a year ago, mainly because its electricity bills rose three-fold.

In contrast to Aena, Britain's biggest airport Heathrow said on Wednesday it was unlikely to return to pre-pandemic demand for several years, except at peak times, because of the global economic crisis that follows the impact of COVID-19.

Aena said the traffic recovery at the Luton airport it operates in Britain is slightly slower than at its Spanish and the Brazilian airports networks.

($1 = 0.9976 euros)

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