Canadian operator CHC Helicopter has reiterated its plan to reshape its fleet, increasing the number of heavy rotorcraft in its portfolio to take advantage of continued growth in deepwater and ultra-deepwater oil and gas exploration.
“Our fleet of heavy and medium helicopters, global capabilities and reputation for safety position us to capitalise on anticipated increases in ultra-deepwater and deepwater drilling and production spending by our major, national and independent oil and gas company customers,” CHC says in its latest stock exchange filing.
Fleet data released as part of its third-quarter results presentation for the period to 31 January shows that although the overall fleet count declined by 6% year on year to 236, the “heavy equivalent” – a metric that assigns heavy helicopters double the value of their medium equivalents – fell by just 3% to 163.
And, speaking to analysts on 12 March, chief financial officer Joan Hooper said CHC would continue down this path. “This favourable dynamic reflects our strategy to upgrade our fleet with new-technology helicopters which generate higher returns,” she said.
Additionally, the Vancouver-headquartered company plans to reduce the number of types it operates. At present it has nine different helicopter models in its fleet, but Hooper says the upgrade plan will see it “migrate” its portfolio to fewer types, “simplifying the supply chain and enhancing efficiency”.
The company's stock market filing notes that the pace of growth is “constrained by the pace at which it renews its fleet, due to the limited supply of new-technology helicopters produced annually by OEMs”.
However, CHC has “leveraged [its] relationship” with the helicopter manufacturers, it says, to secure production slots for new aircraft. In all it has 33 helicopters worth $878 million on order for delivery through to 2017. A further 25 units are covered by options, it says. On top of this, CHC has committed to purchase “$100 million of heavy helicopters” from Airbus Helicopters for delivery before 2016.
The majority of the new aircraft will leased, says Hooper, noting that CHC is now the “industry’s largest lessee of helicopters”. Of its 236-strong fleet, 165 helicopters are covered by leases with 19 lessors, according to its quarterly filing.
For the three months ended 31 January, CHC saw revenue climb by 3% to $454 million, with EBITDAR of $119 million. Its net loss stood at $25 million – a 46% improvement over the same period a year earlier. For the nine-month period revenue grew slightly by 1% to $1.31 billion, with EBITDAR at $339 million and a net loss of $83 million – a decrease of 63% on 2013’s figure.