Heathrow Ends Five Years of Losses on Stansted Sale, A380 Boost

Heathrow Airport Ltd. snapped five years of annual losses in 2013 as Europe’s busiest aviation hub attracted bigger jets to boost passenger numbers and booked gains from the sale of its London Stansted terminal.

Heathrow had a pretax profit of 426 million euros ($586 millioN), versus a 33 million-euro year-earlier loss, it said in a statement today. The hub, which is operating at the limits of its two runways, added 2.3 million more customers by luring larger jets such as the Airbus Group NV A380 superjumbo.

“Our numbers have been improving steadily and it’s good to see them in positive territory,” Chief Executive Officer Colin Matthews said in an interview. While the London-based company’s earnings reaped a 292 million-pound boost from the Stansted sale to Manchester Airports Group, they were also buoyed by an 11 percent advance in revenue to 2.47 billion pounds.

Heathrow, the home base of British Airways, aims to lift A380 movements to 40 a day from an average of just over 26 right now, according to Matthews, eking out capacity while it fights to add a third landing strip. The hub was listed with London Gatwick as suitable for expansion by the state-backed Davies Commission into runway requirements, and will submit revised plans in May ahead of the commission’s final recommendations due to be published after the 2015 general election.

Capital spending totaled 1.3 billion pounds last year, with much of the funding going on a revamp of Terminal 2, where Star Alliance carriers will be concentrated. Heathrow has conducted 180 trials involving 14,000 volunteers to test the facility’s systems and processes, with the first flight, to be operated by United Continental Holdings Inc., due June 4, Matthews said.

Investors in closely held Heathrow received 300 million pounds from the Stansted sale in 2013, together with dividends totaling 255 million pounds, up from 240 million pounds in 2012, when the former BAA Ltd. made its first payout since Spanish builder Ferrovial SA led a buyout in 2006.

Ferrovial now owns 25 percent of the company after selling an 8.65 percent stake in 2013 to the London-based Universities Superannuation Scheme Ltd. fund for 392 million pounds. Chinese and Qatari sovereign wealth funds also own major stakes.

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