Swissport, along with its UK-based subsidiary, Servisair, is one of the world’s largest ground handling companies. Swissport International Ltd was owned by Ferrovial until it was bought in Feb-2011 (98%) by PAI Partners, a Paris based private equity firm. Having acquired rival Servisair in Dec-2013, it now provides ground services for approximately 224 million passengers and handles 4.1 million tonnes of cargo a year on behalf of some 700 client-companies. Swissport is active at more than 260 airports across five continents and employs a workforce of over 55,000 personnel.
Airports serviced by Swissport
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This second part of CAPA's report on airport ground handling reviews the consolidation of the ground handling industry and emerging alliances.
With the global airport ground handling business estimated at over USD80-100 billion per annum in revenues, this is a sizeable activity, with new paradigms emerging as liberalisation spreads and as new major forces like China and (potentially) India and other emerging markets adopt new principles.
Consolidation has occurred and new alliance moves are being made, but added competition has conspired to ensure that in most cases profit margins are small. So there may be more moves to come.
Long considered, perhaps unfairly, to be the ‘bottom feeder’ of the air transport business, the global airport ground handling business is now estimated to be worth over USD80 billion per annum according to its trade association, ASA - while some say USD100 billion.
By comparison the airline industry turned over around USD700 billion in 2013.
Ground handling’s status may be growing but this particular business segment has unique issues that frequently dominate its agenda.
Part 1 of this report deals with the impact of liberalisation, the counter-intuitive inefficiency of multiple ground handlers and the recent UK Supreme Court's potentially disruptive decision on claims for delayed flights. Part 2 will review the consolidation of the ground handling industry and emerging alliances.
SAS made a bigger profit in 3QFY2013 (May-Jul) than in the same period a year ago, building on the positive momentum developed in 2Q, when it narrowed its losses after reporting wider losses in 1Q. Its ‘4Excellence Next Generation’ restructuring plan delivered further savings in the quarter and SAS has made good progress with most of the key savings and liquidity measures identified in the plan. It has confidently reiterated its FY2013 target of positive earnings.
SAS has also announced plans to order new long-haul aircraft and should complete the sale of Wideroe and the outsourcing of ground-handling in the near future. Focusing the network around the needs of frequent flyers and investing in cabin refurbishment should provide some differentiation from, and appeal relative to, LCC competitors on both short-haul and long-haul. Nevertheless, SAS is still a high-cost carrier and remains vulnerable to price-based competition.
BAA and its consortium parent Ferrovial have issued their year-end financial statements for 2010. In the case of the Spanish company revenues, EBIT and EBITDA all fell slightly in the airports division but an EBITDA margin of around 45% was achieved.
The European Commission has opened an investigation into the planned merger between Olympic Air and Aegean Airlines. There are concerns the proposed merger could raise serious competition concerns of very high, potentially monopolistic, market shares on all domestic routes and on a number of international routes where both parties operate.
As the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation has frequently pointed out, the air transport industry is subject to a whole range of external shocks that have the effect of knocking it back to a position worse than it was in before, so that ever greater efforts are required to restore growth trends. These shocks tend to be much more pronounced than they are in other sectors.