BAA narrows losses at London airports

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UK airports operator BAA has reported a pre-tax loss of £249.2 million ($409.2 million) for its two London airports for the first half of 2011, an improvement on the same period a year previously when pre-tax loss hit £279.7 million.

The negative figures came despite a strong improvement in both revenue (up 12.1% at £1.07 billion) and an adjusted EBITDA figure of £510.5 million, up 27.1%.

BAA (SP), which includes London Heathrow and London Stansted, said the performance reflected "improved underlying traffic, increased revenue per passenger, good cost control and no recurrence of 2010's volcanic ash and strike disruptions". Heathrow's Terminal 5C is now fully operational and consistent service standards at the two airports included improved punctuality, it added.

The half-yearly results noted that BAA was considering whether to launch a judicial review of the UK Competition Commission's recent repeated demand that BAA should sell Stansted and either Glasgow or Edinburgh airport.

Passenger numbers at Heathrow rose by 9.1% to 32.9 million, while those at Stansted inched ahead 0.2% to 8.5 million. Adjusting for the 2010 disruptions, passenger traffic across the two airports was estimated to have increased 1.4%, with Heathrow up 2.9% and Stansted down 3.8%. Passenger traffic at Heathrow hit record levels in the second quarter of 2011, added the operator.

Over the six-month period, Heathrow's European scheduled traffic showed the most significant year-on-year growth, up by 12.4% to 12.3 million passengers.

Stansted's estimated fall in passenger numbers was a continuing reflection of airlines' redeployment of capacity from the UK to other European markets. "However, performance improved towards the end of the period, with moderation in year-on-year declines and increasing load factors suggesting gradually more positive demand dynamics."