Thursday, 28 May 2009

Air Arabia

Silk Invest has Air Arabia in its Arab Falcons fund. We met with the company's Director of Finance and Administration to review how things were going in the light of the recent uptick in oil prices (a big component in any airlines costs).

The company has a natural fuel hedge. In effect, when oil price is high, margins are down but revenues go up as the economy is strong. That said, the company hedged 50% of its fuel for this year at USD 55. Good news.

The biggest takeaways are that this is actually a different business model from the European low cost airlines. Firstly, only 30% of tickets are sold through internet. The company has an extensive general sales agent network that adds a fee to the basic prices it distributes. This is difficult to duplicate and is very powerfull in the GCC and India where internet penetration is low. Another big difference is that the Middle East does not close airports at night. As such, the company flys 24/7. Its planes fly 14 hours a day, the highest in the world. (that is twice most other airlines!!!) Its distances are longer on average, versus the small 'hops' in Europe. This means four flights a day, instead of six. As a result, turnaround times are less critical. The other big difference is that it is a 'dry airline'. As such, it does not get revenue from drink sales. By the way, this is not a negative, its customers like that! That said, it gets 2% revenue from excess bagage sales. The final difference is that Sharjah airport owns 17% of company, so new competitors flying our of Dubai can't compete on price as it gets discounted landing fees.

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