Transat A.T. Inc. - Results for Fiscal 2003 - Restructuring efforts and strong performance in fiscal 2003 set the stage for 2004

MONTREAL, January 15/CNW Telbec/

 

-  Revenues of $2.1 billion despite a summer season burdened by SARS, an overall increase of 1.1% compared with 2002.
-  Gain on sale of Anyway in France of $71.9 million before tax.
-  Restructuring charge of $48.0 million ($31.3 million after tax), including a $33.7 million write-down related to the streamlining of Air Transat's aircraft fleet.
-  Net income from continuing operations of $22.2 million or $0.58 per  share (excluding the after-tax restructuring charge) compared with a  net income from continuing operations of $11.7 million or $0.30 per  share in 2002.
-  Cash and cash equivalents in the amount of $349.1 million (including $106.2 million held in trust) compared with $260.1 million (including $101.3 million held in trust) in 2002.

Transat A.T. Inc., one of the 10 leading leisure travel companies in the world and the leader in Canada, recorded revenues of $2,096.6 million for the year ended October 31, 2003, compared with $2,073.5 million in 2002, an increase of approximately 1.1%. This increase was due mostly to firmer prices as the overall number of travelers decreased by 4.4%. The Corporation recorded a net income of $44.9 million for the year ($1.27 per share), compared with a net income of $9.8 million ($0.24 per share) in 2002.

The 2003 net income included $54.1 million ($1.65 per share) related to the sale ($53.1 million) and operations ($1.0 million) of Anyway, the French online travel agency sold in October 2003 and presented as part of discontinued operations on the consolidated financial statements. The $53,1 million related to the sale of Anyway includes $18.8 million of taxes. There are no cash taxes to be paid in this transaction, however. The Corporation recorded a theoretical income tax expense related to the sale of Anyway, as required by generally accepted accounting principles in Canada. This expense was offset on the statement of income on the line "Future income taxes" shown as part of continuing operations as a recovery of income taxes. Excluding the discontinued operations, the net loss from continuing operations amounted to $9.1 million ($0.38 per share) compared with a net income of $11.7 million ($0.30 per share) in 2002.

Excluding the effect of the $31.3 million after-tax restructuring charge, the Corporation recorded a net income from continuing operations of $22.2 million ($0.58 per share) for the year ended October 31, 2003.

The Corporation ended the year with cash and cash equivalents in the amount of $349.1 million (including $106.2 million held in trust) compared with $260.1 million (including $101.3 million held in trust) as at October 31, 2002. Working capital stood at $144.4 million compared with a working capital of $41.8 million in 2002. Fiscal 2003 HighlightsRevenues for the winter 2002-2003 season increased by 16.1%, due to a 10% increase in travellers as well as firmer prices. This increase in the number of travellers is broken down between an 11.6% increase in Canada and a relatively stable number of travellers in France.

Revenues for the summer season decreased by almost 16% compared with 2002 due mostly to the effects of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). The summer season witnessed a stunning 19% drop in travellers, 19.4% in Canada and 17.9% in France. In fiscal 2003 Transat reviewed its tour operator and distribution activities and the aircraft fleet in Canada in order to identify operational efficiencies and other cost-saving opportunities. These reviews led to the realization of a variety of initiatives:

-   The reorganization of the operations of Americanada with the purpose of placing the product lines of this tour operator in a business setting that provides it with an opportunity for developing in an economically profitable way. This unfortunately resulted in the termination of some 150 employees.
-   Staff reductions of approximately 500 employees in the airline subsidiary and in other Canadian tour operators due to the slowdown in demand in the tourism industry as a whole, the result of the war in Iraq, continued terrorist threats, and the negative impact of SARS as well as overcapacity in the market place. This resulted in a reduction of 25% of our airline capacity.
-   A two-year partnership agreement with WestJet Airlines Ltd. To charter WestJet's aircraft to southern vacation destinations. With this partnership agreement the Corporation will be able to broaden its service offerings in new markets and better serve existing customers by using a narrow-bodied fleet that will complement the Air Transat fleet.
-   The implementation of a plan to phase out the use of the six Lockheed L-1011-500s by April 30, 2004. Three of these aircraft ceased operations by October 31, 2003, with the remaining three ceasing operations by April 30, 2004. As a result the Corporation will add four Airbus A310 in 2004. This will harmonize the fleet and reduce operating expenses. This phase out resulted in a $33.7 million before tax restructuring charge during the year. The review of the tour operator and distribution activities also had an impact on the French operations:
-   The reorganization of the management of certain French operations. This reorganization led to the redundancy plan (required under French law) of which called for the lay-off of 90 employees at Look Voyages in France.
-   An investment of an additional $15.0 million in the French operations.
-   The sale of our online travel agency, Anyway for $83.2 million, resulting in a gain on disposal of $71.9 million before tax.

"In a year plagued by SARS, the war in Iraq and continued terrorist threats, our Corporation ended its fiscal year with satisfying results and an improved balance sheet, in addition to staying the course in terms of its overall transformation," stated Jean-Marc Eustache, President and Chief Executive Officer of Transat A.T. Inc.

"The various initiatives undertaken by Transat in Canada and France, many of which were part of our restructuring efforts, have positioned us to continue to deliver operational efficiencies, profitable products and services and cost reductions as well as take advantage of potential growth opportunities. Although the number of travellers fell in 2003, essentially due to the SARS issue, the outlook for international tourism remains extremely positive and bookings for the winter season indicate that the tourists are back," he concluded.

Fourth Quarter Highlights
For the fourth quarter, the Corporation posted revenues of $404.6 million, compared with $512.7 million for the same period the previous year representing a decrease of 108.1 million or 21.1%. The Corporation recorded a net income of $46.6 million for the quarter ($1.40 per share), compared with a net income of $5.5 million ($0.14 per share) in 2002. The 2003 fourth quarter net income included $54.1 million ($1.65 per share) related to the sale and operations of Anyway presented as part of discontinued operations on the consolidated financial statements. Excluding the discontinued operations, the net loss from continuing operations amounted to $7.5 million ($0.25 per share) for the quarter compared with a net income of $7.4 million ($0.20 per share) in 2002. Excluding the effect of the $24.5 million after-tax restructuring charge for the fourth quarter, the Corporation recorded a net income from continuing operations of $17.1 million ($0.50 per share) for the quarter ended October 31, 2003.

Outlook
The Corporation ended fiscal 2003 with a strong balance sheet and the restructuring efforts substantially completed. The Corporation expects a strong winter season in Canada and an improvement to its summer season following the devastating effects of the SARS outbreak on the 2003 summer season. In France the focus will continue to be on reducing the losses at Look Voyages, with the objective of returning Look to profitability in fiscal 2005. Overall, bookings for the winter season are good and the Corporation is well positioned for growth opportunities in 2004 and beyond.

Transat A.T. Inc. with its head office in Montreal is an integrated company specializing in the organization, marketing, and distribution of holiday travel. The core of its business consists of tour operators in Canada and France. Transat is also involved in air transportation, hotel management, and value-added services offered at travel destinations, as well as in distribution through travel agency networks. Transat is listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSE:TRZ).

Forward-looking statements
This news release contains certain forward-looking statements with respect to the Corporation. These forward-looking statements, by their nature, necessarily involve risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those contemplated by these forward-looking statements. The Corporation considers the assumptions on which these forward-looking statements are based to be reasonable, but cautions the reader that these assumptions regarding future events, many of which are beyond its control, may ultimately prove to be incorrect since they are subject to risks and uncertainties that affect the Corporation.

For additional information with respect to these and other factors, see the Annual Information Form and Annual Report (Management Discussion and Analysis) filed with Canadian securities commissions. The Corporation disclaims any intention or obligation to publicly update or revise any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise. 

 

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