FDH and AUA cast shadows over FW boom

Austria’s biggest aerodrome is prospering despite a loss-making investment in Germany.

Flughafen Wien AG (FW), which manages Vienna International Airport (VIA or VIE) announced yesterday (Thurs) it managed to increase its net profit by 13.7 per cent to 43.3 million Euros from the first half of last year to the same time span of 2011. FW added its earnings before interest and taxes (Ebit) shot up by 25.5 per cent to 66 million Euros at the same time while its turnover improved by 10.7 per cent to 280.3 million Euros.

FW acquired a 25.15 per cent interest in Friedrichshafen Airport (FDH) for 7.7 million Euros four years ago. The value of the share dropped to 5.7 million Euros in March 2011. FW admitted yesterday further value adjustments will be needed.

The difficulties of Austrian Airlines (AUA) also affect FW. The debt-stricken airline, which was taken over by the German Lufthansa Group around two years ago, is FW’s most important business partner. AUA counted 5.1 million passengers between January and June, 1.9 per cent more than in the first half of 2010. Most of its rivals fared better at the same time. These developments mean that AUA’s share in all arrivals and departures recorded at VIA dropped by 2.4 per cent to 49 per cent from the first half of 2010 to the same period of 2011. At the same time, budget carriers claimed a share of 22.6 per cent (plus 0.8 per cent).

FW said it expected an increase of overall passengers at VIA of five per cent in 2011 compared to 2010 and one per cent more flight movements. VIA, which is located a few kilometres outside Vienna, recorded nearly 19.7 million passengers in 2010. Salzburg Airport W. A. Mozart (SZG) was Austria’s second-busiest aerodrome in 2010 with more than 1.6 million customers.

The positive outlook for VIA is overshadowed by controversy affecting FW’s expansion plans for the airport. The company, which is listed on the Vienna Stock Exchange (WBAG), said yesterday the aerodrome’s fourth terminal would fully operate from the first half of next year. The construction of the Skylink terminal came to a halt several times as Audit Office (RH) experts and prosecutors examine alleged corruptive actions by businesspeople formerly assigned to construct it. Investigations considering possibly illicit deals are continuing.

The opening date of Skylink has been delayed many times over the years. FW initially wanted to put it into operation ahead of the Football European Championship which was co-hosted by Austria and Switzerland in summer 2008. The project was also hit by immense cost overruns. FW recently promised expenses would not be higher than 800 million Euros.

FW’s intentions to build a third runway caused outcry among many people living in the airport’s direct vicinity. Opponents of the project fear an increase of noise pollution and damage to the environment if the construction of the 3,680-metre landing strip gets the go-ahead. FW made aware of an assessment by experts which found that the third runway would be environmentally acceptable. The report also claimed that noise higher than 10 decibel would be registered only in uninhabited areas.

FW admitted that the ongoing argument with locals made an estimation of costs impossible. The firm added it was unable to name a date when the construction would start. FW announced: “We have no doubts about the necessity of a third runway.”

FW’s new top management will take up work next week. The enterprise’s supervisory board appointed Malta International Airport (MLA) boss Julian Jäger and Burgenland Holding AG manager Günther Ofner as its new executive directors last month. They will succeed lawyer and caretaker chief Christoph Herbst on Thursday (1 September). More than 110 Austrian and foreign businesspeople and politicians tried to get the jobs. One of the few applicants who publicly spoke about their interest was Lower Austrian Green Party official Madeleine Petrovic.