International Airlines Group (IAG) CEO Willie Walsh stated the company would consider the acquisition of an LCC, stating: "We see no reason it can't happen" (Bloomberg, 22-Feb-2011). Mr Walsh commented that the company is "clearly ambitious" about further consolidation and an LCC could be used to feed short-haul traffic into the launch haul networks of British Airways and Iberia. Mr Walsh stated Vueling Airlines, 46% owned by Iberia, already feeds traffic into some of IAG’s network.
IAG could acquire a European LCC
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IAG lowers plans for capacity growth, fleet investment & profit, but keeps return on capital target
IAG's Capital Markets Day on 4-Nov-2016 was the first since its formation in 2011 when it lowered any of its medium term financial targets. It cut its 2016-2020 average EBITDAR goal, in spite of adding in Aer Lingus for the first time. This followed two cuts to 2016 operating profit guidance during the course of this year, as a result of "a tough operating environment". It has been hit by adverse currency movements, mainly resulting from the UK's Brexit vote, in addition to ATC strikes and terrorist events.
To its credit, IAG has responded to the more challenging trading conditions by lowering its planned capacity growth and capital expenditure during its 2016-2020 strategic plan. These steps are necessary if it is to have a chance of meeting its ambitious goal to sustain a 15% return on invested capital. This target is unchanged, despite the lower profit outlook.
In 3Q2016, IAG's rolling four quarter return on capital fell, after rising more or less continuously since it began to target this measure in 2013. It has consistently been more profitable than either of its two main European legacy airline group rivals (Air France-KLM and Lufthansa). Nevertheless, the downward step highlights the challenge in meeting its own demanding target.
IAG and Heathrow: airport decision welcome, but possible charges issues. Options at other IAG hubs
On 25-Oct-2016 the UK government announced its support for a new runway at London Heathrow Airport. There is still a lengthy set of processes to be observed before a new runway at Heathrow can finally be built. Moreover, opponents are likely to fight a fierce battle to try to prevent it. Even Heathrow Airport does not expect the runway to open before 2025. 2030 is more likely.
Airlines at Heathrow, led by British Airways and its parent IAG, have given a muted welcome to the UK government's decision. However, they are very clear that they do not wish to see airport charges increase as a result. IAG in particular has long been adamant that it will not pay for the expansion through tariff increases at Heathrow. The airport is among the most expensive in the world and its aeronautical yield rose 2.5 times from 2007 to 2014.
The UK government has set its aim on keeping landing charges close to current levels. Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye said that the expansion would provide an airport that is fair and affordable; but history suggests that the airport and its leading airline may define these terms differently. However, as this report demonstrates, IAG has other hubs and other airlines that give it alternative growth options.