2021 INTERIM REPORT
DEAR SIR OR MADAM
For Flughafen Zürich AG the first half of 2021 was marked by pandemic-related travel restrictions and significant constraints in our commercial centers. This resulted in a consolidated loss of CHF 45.1 million for the first half year. Costs and investments were reduced significantly, but without losing sight of the long-term focus. Thanks to the diversified business model, revenue did not decline to the same degree as air traffic, with the real estate business in particular proving to be a stable source of income. The opening of the Convention Center and the Hyatt Regency Zurich Airport hotel in the Circle as well as the Cantonal Government Council’s decision to proceed with the runway extensions also marked a significant milestone.
ASSESSMENT OF THE EXCEPTIONAL SITUATION
The first half of 2021 remained challenging for the company, our partner firms and the aviation industry as a whole. The low level of air traffic reached 25% of pre-pandemic levels at best, with intercontinental flights and business travel being particularly badly affected. Along with office staff having to work from home, the temporary closure of shops and restaurants also greatly reduced footfall at Zurich Airport. The first glimmers of light at the end of the tunnel emerged in May when improvements in the medical situation enabled the Swiss Federal Council to take decisions that will slowly allow life to return to normal.
The relaxation of travel restrictions around this time were crucial. Like other major European holiday destinations, Switzerland dropped its quarantine and testing requirements for those who had been vaccinated or had recovered from Covid-19. The blanket travel restrictions imposed on numerous non-Schengen countries were lifted, while unvaccinated travellers were permitted to return from most countries without quarantine on presentation of a negative test result. These new arrangements met the key demands of our “Back in the air” campaign for which we had strenuously lobbied together with various representatives of the aviation industry and business organisations.
Restoration of the freedom to travel and greater planning certainty also led to a jump in the number of bookings with airlines and travel agencies. We consequently recorded higher passenger numbers at Easter, Whitsun and for the summer months, although on peak days numbers were still 50% below pre-crisis levels. Our commercial partners and bars, cafés and restaurants are now also seeing a slight upswing and have been fully operational again since the middle of the year. In April we were able to celebrate one particularly welcome milestone for the Circle: the opening of the Hyatt Regency Zurich Airport The Circle hotel and of The Circle Convention Center.
The trend in both our aviation business and in our commercial centers has once more shown a positive direction of travel since the summer. It will take several years to return to pre-crisis levels. We are confident that air travel will recover again in the medium term, however. If globalisation continues to spread, populations grow worldwide and the global economy remains relatively stable, the demand for international mobility will continue its upward trajectory.
Trend in traffic volume
Between January and June 2021, some 2.1 million passengers used Zurich Airport as a departure, transfer or destination airport, down 60.5% from the prior-year period. In comparison with the first half of 2019, the number of passengers fell by as much as 85.9%.
The number of flight movements fell by 31.9% to 41,123 take-offs and landings in the first half of 2021. Only the number of freight flights increased (+18.6%), which also had a positive impact on the volume of freight handled compared with the first half of 2020 (up 25.1% to 180,788 tonnes).
Trend in revenue
Total revenue in the first six months of 2021 decreased year-on-year by 15.1% to CHF 263.6 million. Compared with 2019, this represents an even steeper decline of 55.2%.
Aviation revenue fell by 49.8% to CHF 65.5 million. The fact that aviation revenue did not decline as steeply as passenger volumes is because not all charges are linked to the latter. Moreover, a temporary 10% cut in flight operations charges (excluding emission and noise charges) came into effect on 1 April to help airlines ramp up operations again.
Over the same period, non-aviation revenue rose by 10.1% to CHF 198.1 million. The increase in commercial revenue was chiefly due to the application of IFRS 16 to the rent concessions granted in the retail, tax & duty free and food & beverage segments which were recognised as assets and will be depreciated on a straight-line basis over the term of the respective agreements. While parking revenue was also affected by the crisis, earnings from facility management grew by 8.0% to CHF 74.6 million. This increase is primarily attributable to additional rental income from the Circle. Our past investments in strengthening stable real estate revenues have proved particularly beneficial during the crisis.
Despite a high proportion of fixed costs, operating expenses fell year on year by 16.6% to CHF 171.4 million. The savings are mainly attributable to lower personnel expenses as a result of short-time working, lower police and security costs, and other general cost reductions. Compared with 2019, after adjustment for expenses for construction projects, operating expenses were down by 30.4% (CHF –72.7 million).
Operating and consolidated result
Compared with the prior-year period, earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) fell by 12.1% to CHF 92.2 million. In comparison with 2019, EBITDA is as much as 69.6% lower.
The bottom line result for the first half of 2021 was a loss of CHF 45.1 million. In the prior-year period, the company likewise posted a loss of CHF 27.5 million, whereas it achieved a profit of CHF 143.4 million in 2019.
Non-current assets of CHF 4.2 billion as at 30 June 2021 are on a par with the 2020 year-end figure. Besides completion of the Circle, the biggest ongoing projects at the Zurich site in the first half of 2021 were the refurbishment and expansion of the baggage system, the renovation of runway 28/10 and the extension of landside passenger areas.
Compared with the prior-year reporting date, invested capital decreased by CHF 0.2 billion to CHF 4.2 billion as a result of adjustments in investment activities.
In the past year Flughafen Zürich AG successfully placed a total of three debentures totalling CHF 900 million on the Swiss capital market, at the same time paying back a maturing debenture for CHF 300 million. Moreover, as a precaution, Flughafen Zürich AG exercised its contractual option to increase its credit facilities to a total of CHF 300 million at the beginning of 2021. In conjunction with reductions in costs and investments, the companyʼs liquidity is assured; as at the reporting date it stands at CHF 455.3 million (excluding unused credit facilities).
The forecast for the current financial year is still surrounded by a great deal of uncertainty. If the positive trend from the beginning of the summer months proves lasting, passenger volumes can be expected to reach over 50% of 2019 levels by the end of the current year. This would create the conditions for the company to return to profit and generate a positive free cash flow again. Further setbacks cannot be excluded, however.
As well as aviation revenue, commercial revenues remain under pressure for 2021. Thanks to additional income from the Circle, revenue from real estate proved to be extremely stable during the crisis and is set to grow in 2021. A speedier recovery is expected in the case of revenue from international business activities as this is more dependent on domestic travel in the respective markets and will therefore recover more quickly.
Further reductions in the cost basis compared with the previous year are anticipated.
Investment at the Zurich base in 2021 will amount to approximately CHF 220 million. Depending mainly on when construction begins on the project in Noida, India, investment at subsidiaries abroad will add a maximum of approximately CHF 100 million.
EXTENSIONS TO RUNWAYS 28 AND 32
These runway extensions are a key plank in our efforts to assure reliable operations without delays in the evenings because they will ensure significantly better punctuality during adverse weather conditions when the East Concept is in use and reduce distances on the ground. They will also cut the number of crossings on the ground and in the air which will further improve safety margins. The first half of 2021 saw this undertaking take a major step forward when on 19 May the Cantonal Government Council instructed its representatives on Flughafen Zürich AGʼs Board of Directors to agree to initiating a planning application for the extension of runways 28 and 32 with the federal government. The Government Council has called on the Cantonal Parliament to approve this directive in accordance with the Airport Act. The Cantonal Parliamentʼs decision is subject to an optional referendum, irrespective of whether it approves the Government Councilʼs resolution or not. The total costs are estimated to be in the region of CHF 250 million and will be financed from airport charges. The project will not be realised until the next decade at the earliest.
SUMMER FLIGHT TIMETABLE
The pandemic and associated travel and quarantine rules continue to greatly influence the flight timetable. Changes are possible at any time. Thanks to a rise in the number of bookings, especially for holiday resorts, airlines have been able to introduce several new destinations and route extensions. Edelweiss Air added a further Caribbean destination with a flight to Jamaica from May onwards. It will also fly to three airports in Tanzania in future. In Europe, Swiss International Air Lines is offering two new destinations: the Estonian capital Tallinn plus Billund in Denmark. From the summer onwards, Condor will lay on flights to new holiday destinations around the Mediterranean. The airline will operate up to 28 flights from Zurich to Ibiza, Palma de Mallorca, Tenerife and Gran Canaria, as well as to Greece (Crete, Kos, Rhodes), Cyprus (Larnaca) and Sardinia (Olbia).
REOPENING OF IMPORTANT PASSENGER INFRASTRUCTURE AND TEST CENTERS
Despite constantly changing travel regulations and quarantine rules and their consequences for flight operations, for the most part Flughafen Zürich AG was able to keep the airport running smoothly in compliance with hygiene rules and protective measures. In June, the temporarily closed Dock E resumed operation on certain days, and will be fully operational again during the second half of the year. Check-in 3 was also opened again at times of heavier passenger volumes, in particular during the holiday period. The range of testing facilities on offer also increased in the first half of 2021 – there are now eight different testing centers at Zurich Airport.
Zurich Airport remains very popular with travellers and once again won the ASQ Award for best European airport in the category “airports with between 25 and 40 million passengers”. The ASQ Award is presented annually by Airports Council International (ACI) World, the international umbrella organisation for airport operators. The award recognises airports around the world that in the opinion of their passengers offer the best customer experience. Following on from 2006, 2008, 2018 and 2019, this is the fifth time Zurich Airport has taken first place in an ASQ Award.
For retailers and especially for bars, cafés and restaurants, the restrictions imposed during the first half of 2021 were drastic. While stores were able to reopen at the beginning of March, restaurants were not permitted to do so until the end of May. On top of the absence of passengers, as many people were working from home Zurich Airport also experienced greatly reduced commuter footfall which also negatively impacted our commercial business. Thanks to stable partnerships, however, a basic level of services for passengers and airport staff was provided at all times. Since the beginning of July, all the retail and hospitality partners have once again been obliged to open during specific core hours.
There were fortunately also some brand new additions to Airport Shopping in March and April. For instance, March saw the expansion of food shopping options with a “bio local”, while Coop opened its third branch at Zurich Airport in the form of a “Coop to go”. A new Sprüngli café rounds off the range of eatery options in Airport Shopping. In the realm of fashion, Bayard presents all the latest on-trend brands in its separate menswear and womenʼs boutiques. Following remodelling, the new-look Ochsner Sport branch reopened with an extended range.
Under the regulations imposed by the authorities, most shops and restaurants in the Circle also remained closed until the spring. During the first half of 2021, however, five new businesses launched retail, event, therapeutic and office spaces in the Circle.
Under the banner of “the square – new mobility hub”, Switzerlandʼs biggest car dealer AMAG has created over 400 square metres of experiential space to showcase its products and solutions around the latest developments in mobility. It is planning to use this space to launch new models and hold information events for private and business customers focusing on new mobility modes and technologies. It will also be possible to book test drives from this hub. The opening of a Bruno Wickart furniture showroom adds a further “Home & Living” segment to the Circleʼs wide-ranging offering. The home and office interiors retailer offers premium designer furniture and home accessories over 400 square metres of floor space. ZURZACH Care, a well-respected healthcare group operating in most parts of German-speaking Switzerland, has moved its RehaCenter, already established at Zurich Airport for over ten years, into the Circle. The Vebego Group, a leading provider of property and facility management services in Switzerland and Europe, likewise moved its headquarters into the Circle during the first half of 2021.
The Hyatt Regency Zurich Airport The Circle hotel opened its doors in April, complete with an attractive range of wining and dining options including Middle Eastern restaurant Babel and Bar Iris overlooking the main square. The Hyatt-operated Circle Convention Center, which can accommodate up to 2,500 people, also commenced operation.
With a wide range of visitor attractions and its own guided walks and ranger tours, the park is already becoming another extremely popular excursion destination at Zurich Airport. Although situated amid urban-like environs providing a wide variety of services, shopping and wining and dining options, the park is an entirely natural space alongside the ever-present fascination of flying.
INFRASTRUCTURE AND PROJECTS
REFURBISHMENT AND EXPANSION OF BAGGAGE SORTING SYSTEM
In future, all check-in and transfer bags will be screened and sorted in our new 30,000 m² baggage sorting system. There have been no major construction delays resulting from the pandemic so far. Plant installation and interior fit-out were fast-tracked during the first half of the year. While the first baggage carousels are being installed in the new extensionʼs large halls, around 1,000 m² of operating office space across two floors were already occupied at the end of April. Work on the new build will be completed by the end of the year, and the new central baggage system area will then be gradually installed and other parts of the system will be renewed. The project is expected to be completed by 2025.
EXPANSION OF LANDSIDE PASSENGER ZONES
This major project, which essentially comprises remodelling the entire northern section of Airport Shopping, is pivotal for the use of all landside zones. Although the work was proceeding on schedule, the decision was taken to delay completion in order to safeguard liquidity. Trench excavation and lining work on the SBB tunnel have been completed, and the first concrete-pouring phases have commenced. The new landside passenger areas are scheduled to open at the end of 2026 at the latest. These will include new retail outlets, underground logistics and a ground-level food hall.
At the moment the largest active project is the construction of a greenfield airport for the metropolitan region of Delhi in Noida, India. Following completion of the first phase of this new project, together with airports in Latin America we will hold some CHF 1 billion in foreign investments. This represents around 20% of our net assets.
In view of its growing importance, international business was concentrated in a separate “International” segment within Flughafen Zürich AG with effect from 1 May 2021. The Board of Directors has appointed Daniel Bircher to head up this new segment, and he consequently joined the Management Board of Flughafen Zürich AG. Daniel Bircher has worked for Flughafen Zürich AG since 2006. He worked as an ex-pat in India and Brazil, and was latterly CEO of Zurich Airport International Asia in Malaysia.
We were able to adequately safeguard liquidity in our Latin American holdings thanks to a combination of cost savings, increased charges and postponed concession fees. The travel industry is expected to recover over the second half of the year, especially in Brazilʼs large domestic market. Following acquisition of the 40-year operating licence in India and new airport concession in Brazil, the current focus of our international business is on consolidation in these two key markets.
SUSTAINABILITY AND THE ENVIRONMENT
Protecting the climate is one of the greatest challenges of our age, and aviation must also play its part. Our company has taken climate change very seriously for decades. For instance, as an infrastructure operator we have already met the requirements of the Paris Agreement for 2030 and made a binding commitment to be carbon neutral by 2050. To achieve this goal, among other things we plan to upgrade buildings and install a modern energy supply. The Circle is certified to LEED® PLATINUM and MINERGIE standards, utilising efficient alternative energy sources, for example solar power or heat pumps with systematic heat recovery and underground thermal energy storage.
We are also committed to the use of alternative sustainable aviation fuels (SAF). It is greatly hoped that these fuels will significantly reduce the carbon footprint of the aviation industry in future. Pure SAF cuts net CO2 emissions by at least 80% compared with fossil-based kerosene.
Mid-2021 we were able to take a major step forward in this regard: together with various partners, we succeeded in developing a process for importing SAF into Switzerland. As a result, amended customs regulations came into force on 1 July 2021 which have enabled alternative fuels to be imported into Switzerland on a regular basis. A blend of sustainable and fossil fuel is imported which is dispensed via Zurich Airportʼs existing regular hydrant systems. Swiss was the first airline to refuel an aircraft with this new alternative fuel.
For the 2021 financial year, our company will publish its first integrated report prepared in accordance with GRI (Global Reporting Initiative) standards.
Chairman of the Board of Directors
Chief Executive Officer