Norwegian Air struggles to fill planes as fleet grows

Bjorn Kjos, CEO of Norwegian Group, presents Norwegian Air's first low-cost transatlantic flight service from Argentina at Ezeiza airport in Buenos Aires, Argentina. (Reuters)
Updated 06 December 2018
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Norwegian Air struggles to fill planes as fleet grows

  • The company, which has been courted by British Airways owner IAG, has ramped up its transatlantic business but has also said that growth will slow as it prioritizes profitability over expansion
  • While the recent fall in crude oil prices will eventually bring down fuel costs, the company is expected to first book substantial losses from hedging positions it entered into at higher prices

OSLO: Budget carrier Norwegian Air struggled to fill its aircraft in November as capacity growth far outpaced demand, while a loss on fuel hedge contracts added to the airline’s woes, sending its shares down 9 percent.

The company, which has been courted by British Airways owner IAG, has ramped up its transatlantic business but has also said that growth will slow as it prioritizes profitability over expansion.

“Several of our summer routes have been extended into November, which has affected the load factor,” Chief Executive Bjoern Kjos said in a statement.

“A full transition into the winter program will take place early next year, once the busy holiday season is behind us.”

While the airline’s capacity grew 34 percent year-on-year in November, revenue-generating passenger kilometers increased by 26 percent, its monthly traffic report showed, lagging a forecast of 33.7 percent in a poll of analysts.

 

The load factor, a measure of how many seats are sold on each flight, fell to 78.8 percent for the month, the lowest since May 2014. That fell short of a forecast of 82.7 percent and was down from 83.7 percent a year ago.

“Overall, we find the traffic figures to be soft,” Danske Bank analyst Martin Stenshall, who has a ‘sell’ recommendation on the stock, wrote in a note to clients.

While the recent fall in crude oil prices will eventually bring down fuel costs, the company is expected to first book substantial losses from hedging positions it entered into at higher prices, Pareto Securities said.

For the first two months of the fourth quarter, Norwegian estimated a loss from fuel hedging amounting to 1.46 billion Norwegian crowns ($171 million), although the full quarterly loss will only be calculated at the end of December.

On the positive side, the company’s November yield, a key measure of revenue per passenger carried and kilometers flown, was unchanged year on year at 0.33 Norwegian crowns. Analysts had expected it to ease to 0.32 crowns.

“Keep in mind that November is a transition month from summer to winter program and (that) demand will restore,” brokerage Pareto said, reiterating a ‘buy’ recommendation.

Norwegian’s shares were down 8.2 percent lower at 195.7 Norwegian crowns at 0932 GMT, against a 2.1 percent drop for the Oslo benchmark index.

FASTFACTS

For the first two months of the fourth quarter, Norwegian estimated a loss from fuel hedging amounting to $171 million.


Gulf defense spending ‘to top $110bn by 2023’

Updated 15 February 2019
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Gulf defense spending ‘to top $110bn by 2023’

  • Saudi Arabia and UAE initiatives ‘driving forward industrial defense capabilities’
  • Budgets are increasing as countries pursue modernization of equipment and expansion of their current capabilities

LONDON: Defense spending by Gulf Arab states is expected to rise to more than $110 billion by 2023, driven partly by localized military initiatives by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, a report has found.

Budgets are increasing as countries pursue the modernization of equipment and expansion of their current capabilities, according to a report by analytics firm Jane’s by IHS Markit.

Military expenditure in the Gulf will increase from $82.33 billion in 2013 to an estimated $103.01 billion in 2019, and is forecast to continue trending upward to $110.86 billion in 2023.

“Falling energy revenues between 2014 and 2016 led to some major procurement projects being delayed as governments reigned in budget deficits,” said Charles Forrester, senior defense industry analyst at Jane’s.

“However, defense was generally protected from the worst of the spending cuts due to regional security concerns and budgets are now growing again.”

Major deals in the region have included Eurofighter Typhoon purchases by countries including Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

Saudi Arabia is also looking to “localize” 50 percent of total government military spending in the Kingdom by 2030, and in 2017 announced the launch of the state-owned military industrial company Saudi Arabia Military Industries.

Forrester said such moves will boost the ability for Gulf countries to start exporting, rather than purely importing defense equipment.

“Within the defense sector, the establishment of Saudi Arabia Military Industries (SAMI) in 2017 and consolidation of the UAE’s defense industrial base through the creation of Emirates Defense Industries Company (EDIC) in 2014 have helped consolidate and drive forward industrial defense capabilities,” he said.

“This has happened as the countries focus on improving the quality of the defense technological work packages they undertake through offset, as well as increasing their ability to begin exporting defense equipment.”

Regional countries are also considering the use of “disruptive technologies” such as artificial intelligence in defense, Forrester said.

Meanwhile, it emerged on Friday that worldwide outlays on weapons and defense rose 1.8 percent to more than $1.67 trillion in 2018.

The US was responsible for almost half that increase, according to “The Military Balance” report released at the Munich Security Conference and quoted by Reuters.

Western powers were concerned about Russia’s upgrades of air bases and air defense systems in Crimea, the report said, but added that “China perhaps represents even more of a challenge, as it introduces yet more advanced military systems and is engaged in a strategy to improve its forces’ ability to operate at distance from the homeland.”