The Qantas Group today announced a market update, accelerated cost reductions and a capital expenditure and structural review, in response to fundamentally changed market conditions.
The Group expects to report an underlying loss before tax in the range of $250 million to $300 million for the six months ending 31 December 2013. Trading conditions saw a marked deterioration in November in particular, with both passenger loads and yields below the already negative trends for the year to date.
The Group can also provide the following guidance for the first half of FY14:
Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said the circumstances demanded urgent action.
“We will do whatever we need to do to secure the Qantas Group’s future,” Mr Joyce said.
“The challenges we now face are immense – but we will overcome them and we will continue to build a stronger and better Qantas for Australia.
“Since the Global Financial Crisis, Qantas has confronted a fiercely difficult operating environment – including the strong Australian dollar and record jet fuel costs, which have exacerbated Qantas’ high cost base.
“The Australian international market is the toughest anywhere in the world.
“Our competitors in the international market, almost all owned or generously supported by their governments, have increased capacity to pursue Australian dollar profits, changing the shape of the market permanently.
“Since early 2012, there has also been an unprecedented distortion of the Australian domestic market, with Virgin Australia’s strategy to seek majority ownership and massive financial backing from foreign government-owned airlines (see Appendix 1).
“This foreign government capital has been used to finance dramatic increases in domestic capacity, with profound implications for the future of Australia’s aviation industry. In November, Virgin signalled its intention to continue its strategy, which is designed to weaken Qantas in the domestic market, with a $300 million-plus injection from its foreign owners.
“The uneven playing field in Australian aviation is being tilted further.
“We cannot and we will not stand still in these extraordinary circumstances.
“As we take these urgent actions, we will continue to take the fight to the competition and strengthen our leading position in the domestic market, and we will continue the turnaround of Qantas International.”
Accelerated cost reduction program
The Group will make accelerated cost reductions across all areas of the business, to achieve total cost savings of $2 billion over three years.
The existing Qantas Transformation program will be accelerated, with an expanded mandate to achieve these targets, including the following steps:
“We have reduced the Group’s unit costs, excluding fuel, by a total of 19 per cent since FY09, including by 5 per cent in FY13 (see Appendix 2).
“But these actions are not enough to deal with the current situation.”
Capital expenditure and structural review
Given the deterioration in earnings, the Group no longer expects to generate positive net free cash flow in the current financial year.
The Group will conduct a review of all planned capital expenditure to achieve further substantial reductions to ensure that the business generates positive net free cash flow from FY15.
This continues the deep cuts to capital expenditure already achieved since 2011.
The Group will also launch an immediate review to identify structural changes that could potentially unlock sources of capital and value for shareholders. No options will be excluded from the review.
Mr Joyce said the Group would take all steps necessary to respond to the toughest market conditions it had ever faced.
“We will focus relentlessly on cutting costs and improving productivity, while maintaining our competitive advantages as a business,” Mr Joyce said.
Australia’s best airline for customers
Mr Joyce said customers would remain at the heart of the Group’s strategy, with a continued focus on service in all areas.
“We have Australia’s best airline and loyalty program, with nearly 10 million loyal frequent flyers,” Mr Joyce said. “Over the past two years, we have developed a global network based on strategic alliances, including the ground-breaking Emirates partnership and expanding relationships in Asia.
“The Qantas customer experience is the best it has ever been. After an intensive fleet renewal program, our average passenger aircraft age is now below eight years, the youngest in two decades, and we have revitalised service with a focus on training and new technology. Customer satisfaction is soaring, with record scores in both the international and domestic markets.”
Discussions with the Australian Government
“As we work through our cost reductions, capital expediture and structural review, no options will be off the table,” Mr Joyce said.
“Political leaders recognise Qantas’ strategic importance, its critical role in providing essential air services, and the benefits to Australia of a strong and viable national carrier.
“None of the measures being discussed with the government would alleviate the need for us to take the comprehensive actions we have announced today. Government action will, however, be key in enabling us to keep competing effectively on a level playing field.”
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