DAA ‘committed’ to seeing Cork back in profit

Cork Airport made a loss of around €14m last year but its parent — the Dublin Airport Authority — has said it is committed to returning the airport to profit.

The DAA yesterday reported a group pre-tax profit of €37.5m for 2011, down from a profit of €41m the previous year and mainly driven by the strong performance of its airport retail business Aer Rianta International — which contributed €32m to the profit.

With regards to Cork — which, along with Dublin, will comprise the DAA’s main airport portfolio once Shannon is separated — management said the end of domestic flight services hit the airport hardest, with passenger numbers down by 3% to 2.4m people.

International traffic through Cork was up by 3%, however, and six new routes — via Aer Lingus, Ryanair, and Hungarian low-cost carrier Wizz Air — were added.

The DAA said it continues to seek new business for Cork and wants to return it to profitability, but conceded such an outcome “will take time”.

“Growing passenger numbers at our airports will remain the central focus of the DAA. It is not only essential for the Irish economy — equally it is essential for us as a company,” said chairman Padraig O’Riordain.

He added that the board’s search for a new permanent chief executive — Oliver Cussen has been filling the role vacated by Declan Collier on an interim basis — should be concluded in the next few weeks.

However, Mr O’Riordain admitted that the salary cap of €250,000 for the seven-year contract had restricted proceedings. He said the appointment could mark “the single most important decision” the DAA will make over the next seven years.

He said the DAA’s airport charges — particularly, at Dublin — are not “disproportionately high” and such costs “are not a material factor on influencing passengers to travel”.

Elsewhere, Dublin Airport grew its passenger numbers by 2%, to 18.7m people last year, while the soon-to-be divested Shannon saw passenger numbers fall by 7% to 1.6m and losses top €7m.

However, management said the DAA has no liquidity worries and is fully funded up to 2018. Net debt declined 4% to €735m last year, with no maturities due for at least five years.


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