Chorus Aviation Announces Fourth Quarter and Year-End 2020 Financial Results

Decreased passenger demand for aviation services due to global travel restrictions and health concerns related to COVID-19 reduced certain of the key financial metrics for the fourth quarter and year ended December 31, 2020 as shown below:

Q4 2020 Highlights

  • Net income of $9.2 million, or $0.06 per basic share; a period-over-period decrease of $27.4 million, offset by a change in unrealized foreign exchange of $25.3 million.
  • Adjusted net income1 of $7.7 million, or $0.05 per basic share; a decrease of $15.6 million quarter-over-quarter.
  • Adjusted EBITDA1 of $82.0 million; a decrease of $6.7 million over fourth quarter 2019.
  • Liquidity of approximately $201.0 million. As part of its liquidity strategy, Chorus successfully amended the repayment terms of certain of its loan agreements in the fourth quarter as outlined in the capital discussion below.
  • Chorus purchased and started earning leasing revenue on five CRJ900s, bringing the total to eight delivered under the CPA in 2020.
  • Delivered final two of five new Airbus A220-300 aircraft to airBaltic of Latvia.
  • Collected approximately 60% of lease revenue billed in the fourth quarter; a 10% improvement over third quarter 2020.

2020 Annual Highlights

  • Net income of $41.5 million, or $0.26 per basic share; a period-over-period decrease of $91.7 million.
  • Adjusted net income of $64.0 million, or $0.40 per basic share; a decrease of $30.9 million year-over-year.
  • Adjusted EBITDA of $347.5 million increased by $5.7 million period-over-period, primarily due to additional aircraft leasing revenue offset by the impact of COVID-19 on results.

HALIFAX, NS, Feb. 18, 2021 /CNW/ – Chorus Aviation Inc. (‘Chorus’) (TSX: CHR) today announced fourth quarter and year-end 2020 financial results and an update on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the business.

“The COVID-19 crisis brought a deep, global reduction in passenger demand and onerous travel restrictions, imposing significant financial hardship on our customers.  The crisis forced us to pivot from offense to defense; shifting from our plans of organic growth to building liquidity and protecting the balance sheet,” stated Joe Randell, President and Chief Executive Officer, Chorus.

“Overall, the resiliency of our business model and the dedication of our team delivered respectable financial performance despite the unprecedented challenges the aviation industry worldwide is experiencing.  Year-over-year adjusted EBITDA was relatively consistent due primarily to the fixed fee nature of our contract with Air Canada and modest growth in aircraft leasing revenue.”

“We closed 2020 with approximately $200 million in liquidity and we anticipate this to be relatively stable to the end of this year.  Preserving liquidity remains a priority given the duration and ultimate impact of the pandemic on our industry are unknown.  We understand that the financial losses airlines are incurring are not sustainable in the long term. We continue to work with Air Canada and our leasing customers to help them manage the economic pressures they are facing as a consequence of the sustained reduction in demand for passenger air travel. We are confident that air travel will return, but given the uncertainty of when, we continue to take the steps necessary to protect the company.”

“The health and safety of our employees and customers are major areas of focus. I continue to be amazed at the resiliency of our team and I sincerely thank them for doing all possible to maintain the safety and integrity of our operations.  Many of our smaller and regional communities are without air service and I certainly appreciate the hardship and uncertainty we all face.  With over half of our employees on inactive status, this situation needs urgent attention.  We’ve been very active advocating for our industry with key government stakeholders to ensure the sustainability of regional aviation services is top of mind when making these policy decisions.  The air industry needs sector support given the circumstances.  I look forward to resuming service and providing critical links to the rest of Canada and the world through the Air Canada network, and we are eager to do so.  I’m hopeful our government will soon introduce its plan to assist our vital sector given its importance to the social fabric of Canada and any economic recovery,” concluded Mr. Randell.

Liquidity

As of December 31, 2020, Chorus’ liquidity was approximately $201.0 million including cash of $165.7 million and $35.3 million of available room on its operating credit facility. Liquidity decreased from the third quarter by approximately $17.0 million primarily due to the equity funding on two previously committed A220-300s acquired in the fourth quarter as well as working capital requirements.

In 2020, Chorus successfully implemented the following measures as part of its liquidity strategy by:

  • Renegotiating certain of the debt facilities repayment terms in December 2020 as outlined in the Capital section below.
  • Utilizing the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (‘CEWS’) program in Jazz and Voyageur and netting the $120.5 million government grant against salaries, wages and benefits expense in 2020. Although Jazz received CEWS of $115.6 million, this grant did not contribute to Jazz’s operating income as it was either passed onto Air Canada as a reduction in Controllable Costs or paid to inactive employees. The CEWS received for active employees of $63.1 million reduced the amount of the Controllable Cost Guardrail receivable from Air Canada.
  • Suspending dividend payments and the Dividend Reinvestment Plan (‘DRIP’) following the payment of the March 2020 dividend on April 17, 2020. This measure saved approximately $40.0 million in dividend payments in 2020. On an annual basis this measure is estimated to save approximately $55.0 million in annual cash payments, assuming a DRIP participation rate of 29%.
  • Suspending all incremental aircraft lease portfolio acquisitions beyond those committed.
  • Reducing non-essential maintenance and other capital expenditures as a result of reduced flying and other business activity in Jazz and Voyageur.
  • Implementing pay reductions for members of the management and administrative team and Board of Directors in 2020.
  • Offering voluntary employee separation program packages during the year to reduce overhead costs in Jazz.

Chorus currently expects its liquidity to be relatively stable to the end of 2021 as it continues with measures to manage liquidity based on the continuation of the reduction of non-essential capital expenditures, reduction of overhead costs and the utilization of the CEWS by Jazz and Voyageur for the remainder of the program, contingent upon qualification.

Fourth Quarter 2020 Summary

In the fourth quarter of 2020, Chorus reported adjusted EBITDA of $82.0 million, a decrease of $6.7 million relative to the fourth quarter of 2019.

The Regional Aircraft Leasing (‘RAL’) segment’s adjusted EBITDA decreased by $7.8 million primarily due to a $3.6 million expected credit loss provision and lower lease margins attributable to off-lease aircraft partially offset by additional aircraft earning leasing revenue.

The Regional Aviation Services (‘RAS’) segment’s adjusted EBITDA increased by $1.1 million.

The fourth quarter results were impacted by:

  • a decrease in stock-based compensation of $2.5 million due to the change in the share price inclusive of the change in fair value of the Total Return Swap;
  • an increase in aircraft leasing under the CPA primarily related to additional revenue of $3.1 million earned from two incremental Dash 8-300s and eight incremental CRJ900s in 2020 versus 2019; and
  • a decrease in general administrative expenses; offset by
  • a decrease in capitalization of major maintenance overhauls on owned aircraft operated under the CPA of $1.9 million over the previous period;
  • a reduction in other revenue due to a decrease in third-party maintenance repair and overhaul (‘MRO’) activity and reduced contract flying resulting from the economic impact of COVID-19; and
  • an expected credit loss of $0.6 million.

Adjusted net income was $7.7 million for the quarter, a decrease of $15.6 million due to:

  • a $6.7 million decrease in adjusted EBITDA as previously described;
  • an increase in depreciation of $3.0 million primarily related to additional aircraft;
  • an increase in net interest costs of $3.8 million primarily related to the 5.75% Unsecured Debentures added in December 2019, new credit facilities and additional aircraft debt; and
  • an increase of $6.0 million in realized foreign exchange and unrealized foreign exchange losses on working capital; offset by
  • a $3.5 million decrease in adjusted income tax expense resulting from a reduction in EBT1 of $9.3 million offset by tax recovery on adjusted items of $5.8 million; and
  • a decrease in other of $0.4 million.

Net income decreased $27.4 million due to the previously noted decrease in adjusted net income of $15.6 million, a general aircraft impairment provision of $41.6 million, lease repossession costs of $0.5 million, signing bonuses of $0.5 million, and employee separation program costs of $0.4 million; offset by the change in net unrealized foreign exchange on long-term debt of $25.3 million and tax recovery on adjusted items of $5.8 million.

2020 Year-End Summary

Chorus reported adjusted EBITDA of $347.5 million for 2020, an increase of $5.7 million over 2019.

The RAL segment’s adjusted EBITDA increased by $12.9 million which was primarily due to additional aircraft earning leasing revenue partially offset by an $8.8 million allowance for expected credit loss provision and lower lease margins attributable to off-lease aircraft.

The RAS segment’s adjusted EBITDA decreased by $7.2 million. The 2020 results were impacted by:

  • a reduction in other revenue due to a decrease in third-party MRO activity, reduced part sales and reduced contract flying resulting from the economic impact of COVID-19;
  • a decrease in capitalization of major maintenance overhauls on owned aircraft operated under the CPA of $5.9 million over the previous period; and
  • an expected credit loss provision of $1.5 million; partially offset by
  • a decrease in stock-based compensation of $9.3 million due to the change in the share price inclusive of the change in fair value of the Total Return Swap:
  • an increase in aircraft leasing under the CPA primarily related to additional revenue of $9.9 million earned from two incremental Dash 8-300s and eight incremental CRJ900s in 2020 versus 2019; and
  • a decrease in general administrative expenses.

Adjusted net income was $64.0 million year-to-date, a decrease over 2019 of $30.9 million due to:

  • an increase in depreciation of $19.2 million related to additional aircraft;
  • an increase in net interest costs of $19.0 million related to additional aircraft debt, the 5.75% Unsecured Debentures added in December 2019 and on new credit facilities;
  • an increase of $1.3 million on loss of disposal of property and equipment; and
  • an increase of $6.9 million in realized foreign exchange and unrealized foreign exchange losses on working capital; partially offset by
  • a $5.7 million increase in adjusted EBITDA as previously described;
  • a decrease in adjusted income tax expense of $9.3 million resulting from a reduction in EBT of $19.6 million offset by tax recovery on adjusted items of $10.3 million; and
  • a decrease in other of $0.4 million.

Net income decreased $91.7 million over 2019 due to the previously noted decrease of $30.9 million in adjusted net income, a general aircraft impairment provision of $68.2 million, $3.2 million on lease repossession costs and increased employee separation program costs of $2.5 million; offset by tax recovery on adjusted items of $10.3 million, decreased signing bonuses of $1.5 million under union collective agreements and the change in net unrealized foreign exchange on long-term debt of $1.4 million.

Outlook
(See cautionary statement regarding forward-looking information below)

The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting government restrictions have created unprecedented challenges for the passenger aviation industry around the world. Even though Chorus’ business model does not directly expose it to the market risks ordinarily faced by airlines, substantially all its source revenue is derived from airline customers, through its CPA and its leasing of aircraft to airline customers globally. The full extent of the duration and therefore the impact of this pandemic are unknown. Chorus continues to work with Air Canada and its customers to assist as they manage the economic pressures they face.

Regional Aviation Services:

Jazz expects to operate between approximately 14% and 20% of its capacity in the first quarter of 2021 compared to the first quarter of 2020.

In January 2021, approximately 50% of Jazz employees were furloughed, which is down from its lowest point of 65% in the second quarter of 2020 due to an increase in flying operations. Contingent upon qualification, Jazz plans to utilize the CEWS for the remainder of the program’s availability, which has been extended to the end of June 2021.

Jazz earns a Fixed Margin which was set for 2020 as an aggregate amount irrespective of the number of Covered Aircraft and thereafter is based on the number of Covered Aircraft under the CPA. The Fixed Margin under the CPA for 2021 is currently fixed at not less than $64.5 million compared to $74.2 million earned in 2020.

As of December 31, 2020, the Controllable Cost Guardrail receivable from Air Canada was $44.2 million. Chorus expects the receivable to be between $15.0 million and $45.0 million in 2021.

Chorus started earning leasing revenue on five additional CRJ900s delivered under the CPA near the end of the fourth quarter of 2020, bringing the total CRJ900 aircraft received in 2020 to eight. Chorus received the ninth CRJ900 in February 2021.

Voyageur continues to perform overseas humanitarian flights and cargo services, and the air ambulance operation in New Brunswick. Voyageur’s contract flying, charter sales and MRO services revenues all improved over the third quarter of 2020 and the momentum is expected to be sustained in 2021. Parts sales operations experienced lower demand during the quarter due to the impact of COVID-19. Voyageur currently represents less than 10% of Chorus’ consolidated revenue and net income.

Regional Aircraft Leasing:

Chorus has received requests from substantially all its RAL segment customers for some form of temporary rent relief, as they cope with an unprecedented reduction in demand for passenger air travel. With the exception of the rent relief agreements that include lease term extensions, the arrangements typically provide short-term rent relief of between three and twelve months, with repayment terms approximating two years. Chorus Aviation Capital’s (‘CAC’) gross lease receivable was $56.3 million (US $44.2 million) as of December 31, 2020 and is not estimated to materially change by the end of the 2021. CAC’s gross lease deferral receivable exposure is partially mitigated by security packages held of approximately US $19.0 million. Chorus collected approximately 60% of lease revenue billed in the fourth quarter from its lessees, excluding repossessed aircraft, a 10-percentage point improvement over the third quarter of 2020. Consistent with market norms, these leases are generally for a fixed term, contain an absolute payment obligation on the part of the lessee, and cannot be terminated early for convenience.

Capital:

In December 2020, Chorus amended the terms of a warehouse credit facility used for aircraft acquisitions to, among other things, cancel the remaining available credit under the facility (and the associated commitment fees), leaving the balance outstanding under the facility at US $127.9 million (CAD $162.8 million).

In December 2020, Chorus amended the terms of the US $100.0 million unsecured revolving credit facility obtained in April 2020, to replace a bullet repayment of the entire facility at maturity in April 2022 with repayment over eight equal instalments of principal and interest starting in July 2022 and ending in April 2024.

In December 2020, Chorus amended the loan deferral program repayment terms from 12 months to 18 months beginning in January 2021. Chorus’ loan deferral program with its largest lender allowed it to defer scheduled payments under certain aircraft loans to the end of 2020 so long as the lease rent under the corresponding leases was deferred. The balance deferred as of December 31, 2020 was US $28.9 million.

In December 2020, Chorus also amended the terms of its aircraft loans with its largest lender in order to remove the remarketing period deadline in respect of aircraft repossessed up to April 24, 2021. This eliminates the requirement to repay the principal amount of the loans prior to maturity if the aircraft are not re-leased by the end of the remarketing period so long as Chorus continues to make the regularly scheduled principal and interest payments and otherwise complies with the loan terms (refer to note 2 to the following table).

As of December 31, 2020, Chorus had 13 aircraft off-lease. The aggregate scheduled principal payments on long-term debt, associated with these off-lease aircraft was as follows:

Aircraft TypeNumber of AircraftTotal DebtRemarketingPeriod
(US$ Millions)
Dash 8-400210.2March 2, 2021
Dash 8-4003NilNot Applicable
CRJ900230.8Indefinite(1)
ATR72-600666.3Indefinite(1)
Total13107.3
(1)Loans with remarketing period exemptions provided Chorus continues to make the regularly scheduled principal and interest payments and otherwise comply with the loan terms.

The following table provides the number of closed and pending/delayed transactions(1) announced to-date:

CompletedTransactionsPending/
Delayed
Transactions(1)CommittedTransactions
Customer2016 –
Q3
2020
Q4 2020TotalQ1 2021Q2 2021 and
thereafter
2016 –
Q3 2020
 Increase
(Decrease)
Total 2016 –
2020(2)
Aeromexico3333
Air Nostrum4444
airBaltic32555
Azul Airlines5555
Croatia Airlines2222
Ethiopian Airlines5555
Indigo8888
Jambojet3333
KLM Cityhopper1111
Malindo Air4444
Philippine Airlines3333
SpiceJet5555
Wings Air1111
Undisclosed customer222
Aircraft to be remarketed(3)13131313
Total Regional Aircraft Leasing6026226464
Total Regional Aviation Services(4)57562187171
Chorus Total Aircraft1177124110135135
(1)All pending acquisitions and lease commitments are subject to satisfaction of customary conditions precedent to closing including receipt of financing for the aircraft.
(2)Total announced transactions as of February 18, 2021.
(3)CAC is actively remarketing 13 off-lease aircraft resulting from lease terminations.
(4)The RAS segment’s commitments include the following pending transactions: At December 31, 2020, there was one CRJ900 (received February 2021), three Dash 8-300 ESPs planned for between 2021 – 2022, and five 75-78 seat aircraft, all of which are intended to earn leasing revenue under the CPA.

Capital expenditures in 2021, including capitalized major maintenance overhauls but excluding expenditures for the acquisition of aircraft and the ESP, are expected to be between $32.0 million and $38.0 million. Annual related acquisitions and ESP capital expenditures in 2021 are expected to be between $100.0 million and $110.0 million (1) 

Link to more details at chorusaviation.com.