Sats Q4 profit falls 23.7%; firm to buy stake in China company

Sats' in-flight catering centre. The ground-handling company noted that while the global economy faces challenges, demand for aviation services and high-quality food in Asia-Pacific continues to grow. Sats is buying a 50 per cent stake in Nanjing Wei
Sats' in-flight catering centre. The ground-handling company noted that while the global economy faces challenges, demand for aviation services and high-quality food in Asia-Pacific continues to grow. Sats is buying a 50 per cent stake in Nanjing Weizhou Airline Food Company for $31.2 million.ST FILE PHOTO

The absence of one-off gains meant fourth-quarter earnings at ground-handling firm Sats slumped in the fourth quarter.

Net profit was down 23.7 per cent to $49.9 million, it reported yesterday before the market opened.

One-off items in the same three months last year included a $2.3 million gain on the disposal of assets related to its Japanese unit TFK and an $11.6 million surplus arising from the finalisation of valuation of the group's associate, Evergreen Sky Catering.

By comparison, Sats recorded only a $1.2 million gain from one-off items in the fourth quarter this year from a write-back in tax provision related to a gain from the disposal of DFASS Sats to KrisShop in the third quarter. Excluding one-off items, underlying net profit for the three months to March 31 fell 5.4 per cent to $48.7 million.

Revenue grew 11.3 per cent to $471.5 million, thanks to higher contributions from its food solutions and gateway services businesses.

Earnings per share for the quarter came in at 4.5 cents, compared with 5.9 cents last year.

Full-year net profit was down 5 per cent to $248.4 million, on the back of lower one-off gains, while revenue rose 6 per cent to $1.83 billion. Earnings per share for the full year came in at 22.3 cents, compared with 23.4 cents a year earlier.

The board has recommended a final dividend of 13 cents, compared with 12 cents last year. Including an interim dividend of six cents, unchanged from the preceding year, the total payout amounts to 19 cents a share.

Sats noted that while the global economy faces challenges, demand for aviation services and high-quality food in Asia-Pacific continues to grow. President and chief executive Alex Hungate said: "Our investments in regional expansion and new capabilities are bearing fruit."

Sats also announced yesterday that it is buying a 50 per cent stake in Nanjing Weizhou Airline Food Company for $31.2 million, in a bid to gain immediate market access and frozen food production capabilities in China.

Nanjing Weizhou is an independent aviation food manufacturer in Jiangsu province with a network of 12 cold-storage facilities or distribution channel partners across China, where it serves 80 airports.

It had a book value of 58.3 million yuan (S$11.6 million) as of Dec 31.

Chairman and general manager Luo Bo noted that China's aviation industry is growing exponentially and now has 229 airports across the country, with passenger throughput exceeding 1.1 billion.

"We are excited to partner Sats to help us build upon our existing strong foundation to further enhance our level of service," he said.

Sats shares closed down 2.68 per cent to $5.08 yesterday after the results were released.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 18, 2019, with the headline 'Sats Q4 profit falls 23.7%; firm to buy stake in China company'. Print Edition | Subscribe