HACTL and AAT both reported a further stabilisation in demand in Oct-2009, although a full recovery appears to still be some time away.
The key indicator will be whether Hong Kong's cargo volumes move up significantly this month (ie in the pre-Christmas period), after last year's disappointment.
HACTL seeing cargo volume growth in Oct-2009
In the month, HACTL reported a total of 225,856 tonnes handled, for a 1.7% year-on-year improvement, the first year-on-year growth in over 12 months (this compared to cumulative tonnage declines of 14.5%). However, it should be noted that air cargo volumes started to decline in Jul-2008, so the gain was off a near double-digit decline in Oct-2008.
HACTL import volume continues growth trend and up by double-digits
HACTL’s export decline was 2.8% in Oct-2009, compared to cumulative reduction of 18.6% year-to-date, while import volume continued its growth in positive territory in the month, now up by double digits (+15.4%) for three consecutive months of positive growth, after 12 months of contractions (and compared to a year-to-date reduction of 9.8%).
The trans-shipment volume was 42,832 tonnes for Oct-2009, a decline of 1.5%%, but a less severe decline than in the first ten months of 2009 (-8.8%).
HACTL cargo traffic growth (% change year-on-year): Oct-2008 to Oct-2009
AAT’s declines “reduced significantly” in Oct-2009, but excess capacity limits growth
HACTL’s smaller rival, Asia Airfreight Terminal Co Ltd (AAT), stated that “the decline of October performance has reduced significantly, unfortunately the available capacity in the market has limited the tonnage growth."
In Oct-2009, AAT handled 51,380 tonnes of cargo, a 3% year-on-year contraction (an improvement from the 12% year-on-year contraction in Sep-2009 and compared to a year-to-date contraction of 22.3%)
Export cargo registered 36,093 tonnes, also a 3% year-on-year reduction, with import cargo down 4% and trans-shipment cargo volume down 2%, although off a small base, to 357 tonnes.
AAT cargo volume growth (% change year-on-year): Oct-2008 to Oct-2009
Outlook: Still feeling impact of economic downturn and cross-Straits liberalisation, but Christmas peak a positive
Both HACTL and AAT are still feeling the impact of the global economic downturn, in addition to the impact on the Hong Kong hub from cross-Strait liberalisation.
Both companies are now hoping for further tonnage improvements in the lead up to Christmas and should be encouraged by comments by Cathay Pacific General Manager Cargo Sales & Marketing, Titus Diu, who stated the carrier expects cargo demand to “remain strong through to mid-December”.