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IAG - profits rebound amid leisure demand

IAG's total underlying revenue was €8.6bn up from €7.3bn in the third quarter.

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International Consolidated Airlines (IAG)'s total underlying revenue was €8.6bn up from €7.3bn in the third quarter. Underlying operating profit rose to €1.7bn from €1.2bn, following good leisure demand and a 17.9% uplift in capacity. There was particularly strong demand for premium leisure on transatlantic routes, leading to an increase in Business Class bookings.

There was "strong demand" across all routes overall and bookings for the final quarter are in-line with expectations, with 75% of passenger revenue already booked. Full year capacity is expected to be at 96% of pre-pandemic levels.

The group's reduced net debt to 1.4 times cash profits, down from 3.1 times.

The shares fell 2.1% following the announcement.

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Our view

British Airways owner IAG is continuing its impressive momentum. Led by leisure demand, profits are climbing up, up and away. Capacity's building too, meaning operations are within a whisker of pre-pandemic levels, as well as renewed demand for more lucrative Business Class travel. All in, that means this aviation giant's back on an even keel.

We're particularly pleased by the positive moves on price increases, despite the considerable pressure on customer incomes. The second thing to consider is consolidation in the airline industry. A handful of smaller carriers have gone out of business and IAG's acquisition of Air Europa means there's more market for the taking. This doesn't upend the investment case, but it's a helpful market dynamic and shows the benefit of having strong, trusted brands in this business.

There are some things to keep in mind though. While pent up travel demand still has room to run, it can't go on forever. At some point we'll see what normal demand looks like once more. There's a very real risk that consumer behaviour is yet to fully adjust to a world of higher inflation and increased costs. If spending starts to rein in, we could see the strong forward order book come under pressure. The group's also more exposed to business travel than other short-haul-focused carriers, and that corner of the market would take more of a hit should consumers avoid departure gates.

Costs are also a drag, thanks to the wider cost increases that come with getting this giant bird of a business back at full height. This means pre-covid levels of operating profit aren't expected for a few years.

Our biggest concern for now is the group's debt pile, meaning that interest payments were north of €824m last year. Debt is reducing and we're pleased with the direction of travel but shareholder payouts could take a backseat to debt management for a while longer.

For now, it seems the worst is over for IAG and the current risks to demand look more like turbulence than a full stop. We're a lot more positive than we've been for some time. But keep in mind, IAG is likely to face the worst of any slowdown in consumer spending.

IAG's key facts

All ratios are sourced from Refinitiv. Please remember yields are variable and not a reliable indicator of future income. Keep in mind key figures shouldn't be looked at on their own - it's important to understand the big picture.

This article is original Hargreaves Lansdown content, published by Hargreaves Lansdown. It was correct as at the date of publication, and our views may have changed since then. Unless otherwise stated estimates, including prospective yields, are a consensus of analyst forecasts provided by Refinitiv. These estimates are not a reliable indicator of future performance. Yields are variable and not guaranteed. Investments rise and fall in value so investors could make a loss.

This article is not advice or a recommendation to buy, sell or hold any investment. No view is given on the present or future value or price of any investment, and investors should form their own view on any proposed investment. This article has not been prepared in accordance with legal requirements designed to promote the independence of investment research and is considered a marketing communication. Non-independent research is not subject to FCA rules prohibiting dealing ahead of research, however HL has put controls in place (including dealing restrictions, physical and information barriers) to manage potential conflicts of interest presented by such dealing. Please see our full non-independent research disclosure for more information.

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Written by
Sophie Lund-Yates
Sophie Lund-Yates
Lead Equity Analyst

Sophie is a lead on our Equity Research team, providing research and regular articles on a selection of individual companies and wider sectors. Sophie's specialities are Retail, Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG), Aerospace & Defence as well as a few of the big tech names including Facebook and Apple.

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Article history
Published: 27th October 2023