Chorus Aviation Inc. announces third quarter 2012 results

Earnings per share of $0.30 
Consistent quarterly profitability since 2006

HALIFAX, Nov. 13, 2012 /CNW/ - Chorus Aviation Inc. ("Chorus") (TSX: CHR.B CHR.A CHR.DB) today announced its third quarter 2012 earnings, with net income of $37.2 million, or $0.30 per basic share, and adjusted net income1 of $27.1 million or $0.22 per basic share.

Q3 2012 HIGHLIGHTS

  • Operating revenue of $435.6 million.
  • Free Cash Flow1 of $37.8 million, or $0.31 per basic share.
  • Operating income of $36.7 million.
  • Net income of $37.2 million, or $0.30 per basic share.
  • Adjusted net income1 of $27.1 million, or $0.22 per basic share.
  • Billable Block Hours of 104,393.

"I'm very pleased with our third quarter financial and operational performance," said Joseph Randell, President and Chief Executive Officer, Chorus. "Cash flow remains strong, and Jazz employees' continued efforts to deliver solid customer service resulted in a $1.1 million increase in performance incentives over the same period last year."

"In the third quarter we were also pleased to achieve new collective agreements with Jazz's Flight Dispatchers and Maintenance and Engineering employees, and I thank all involved for their commitment and hard work," continued Mr. Randell.  "Jazz was also honoured to be recognized by Canada's Top Employers as one of Canada's Top Employers for Young People in 2012. This special designation recognizes employers that offer the nation's best benefits for younger workers and are Canada's leaders in attracting and retaining younger employees to their organizations."

"We appreciate the delay in obtaining a resolution to the 2009 benchmark exercise is a concern," commented Mr. Randell.  "The outstanding clarifications required on certain adjustments to the controllable cost data to ensure a fair and reasonable comparison to the defined group of regional operators are key in this benchmark exercise, regardless of the methodology applied.  We are of the view that a proper application of Air Canada's methodology, with the appropriate adjustments directed by the arbitration panel in their initial decision, should not result in an adjustment to the Controllable Mark-Up.  We anticipate having all matters settled in this arbitration no later than the first quarter of 2013.  We remain focused on reaching a resolution while strengthening our foundation, improving our cost competitiveness and building value for all our stakeholders."

Financial Performance - Third Quarter 2012 Compared to Third Quarter 2011

Operating revenue increased from $411.7 million to $435.6 million, representing an increase of $24.0 million or 5.8%.  Passenger revenue, excluding pass-through costs, increased by $19.0 million or 7.6% primarily as a result of a 1.9% increase in Billable Block Hours, rate increases made pursuant to the Capacity Purchase Agreement ('CPA') with Air Canada, a higher US dollar exchange rate, and a $1.1 million increase in incentives earned under the CPA. Pass-through costs increased from $160.8 million to $166.1 million, or $5.3 million or 3.3% which included $1.5 million related to fuel. Other revenue decreased by $0.3 million.

Operating expenses increased from $380.6 million to $399.0 million, an increase of $18.4 million or 4.8%.  Controllable Costs increased by $13.1 million, or 6.0%.  Controllable operating expenses were impacted by the changes in the fleet ownership structure for the Q400 aircraft.  CRJ-100 aircraft, previously reported under operating leases, are being replaced by owned Q400 aircraft. Related ownership costs are comprised of depreciation (an operating expense), and interest (a non-operating expense). The Q400 aircraft lease revenue under the CPA is reflected in operating revenue, and is designed to provide compensation to Chorus for both depreciation and interest expense.  As interest expense is shown below the operating margin, operating income increased by a similar amount on a quarter over quarter basis.

Depreciation and amortization expense increased by $3.3 million, of which $3.1 million is related to the purchase of Q400 aircraft, with the balance due to increased capital expenditures on aircraft rotable parts and other equipment; offset by decreased major maintenance overhauls and certain assets having reached full amortization.

Aircraft maintenance expense increased by $4.0 million, with increased costs of $0.8 million arising as a result of increased Block Hours, the effect of the increase in the US-dollar exchange rate on certain material purchases of $0.3 million, increased other maintenance costs of $1.4 million, and an increase in engine maintenance activity of $1.5 million.

Salaries, wages and benefits increased by $7.4 million as a result of wage and scale increases under new collective agreements, increased Block Hours, increased incentive compensation expense, increased pension expense resulting from a revised actuarial valuation and lower capitalized salaries and wages related to major maintenance overhauls; offset by a 3.7% reduction in the number of full time equivalent employees.

Other expenses decreased by $0.7 million primarily due to decreased professional fees and general overhead expenses; offset by increased crew expenses increased due to increased activity and rates.

Non-operating income increased $19.8 million.  This change was mainly attributable to a foreign exchange gain of $10.7 million (of which $10.0 million was related to an unrealized foreign exchange gain on long-term debt and finance leases) arising as a result of the change in value of the Canadian dollar relative to the US dollar; offset by increased interest expense related to the Q400 aircraft financing of $1.8 million.

EBITDA1 was $51.8 million compared to $43.0 million in 2011, an increase of $8.8 million or 20.7%, producing an EBITDA margin of 11.9%. Free Cash Flow was $37.8 million, an increase of $8.7 million or 30.0% from $29.1 million.

Operating income of $36.7 million for the three months ended September 30, 2012, was up $5.6 million or 17.9% over third quarter 2011 from $31.1 million.

Net income for the third quarter of 2012 was $37.2 million or $0.30 per basic share, an increase of $23.3 million or 167.1% from $13.9 million or $0.19 per basic share.

Benchmarking Arbitration (Refer to Section 14 of Chorus' Third Quarter 2012 MD&A for additional information)

As communicated on October 3 and 4, 2012, the arbitration panel (the 'Panel') released its award (the 'Award') on the 2009 benchmark exercise between Jazz Aviation LP ('Jazz') (a wholly owned subsidiary of Chorus) and Air Canada.

In the Award, two of the three member Panel concluded that the component unit cost driver ('CUCD') methodology put forward by Air Canada was the appropriate methodology to use in the 2009 Benchmark to compare Jazz's Unit Costs to the stage length adjusted median controllable unit costs of the Comparable Operators.  However, the Panel also agreed with Jazz that a number of the additional adjustments proposed by Jazz were also required to be made (the "Adjustments").The Panel also agreed with Jazz that fleet age impacts the rate at which maintenance costs increase. The Panel directed Air Canada and Jazz to negotiate a further adjustment that would account for the impact of fleet age, failing which the parties will submit new proposals and analysis to the Panel.

There remain disputes between the parties with respect to the interpretation and application of the Award and its impact on the Controllable Mark-Up. Jazz is of the view that, applying the CUCD methodology, and based on the proper application of the Adjustments that the Panel has found are required to be made, the result of the 2009 Benchmark is that Jazz is not required to repay Air Canada any amounts in respect of payments made since January 1, 2010, and that its Controllable Mark-Up will remain at 12.50% going forward until at least the 2015 Benchmark.

Air Canada, on the other hand, has asserted to Jazz its view that the impact of the Adjustments that the Panel found were required to be made would reduce the Controllable Mark-Up to 11.41%. However, this does not account for any impact that the fleet age adjustment described above would have on the Controllable Mark-Up. Air Canada took the position at the hearing that there should be no such fleet age adjustment. Jazz is of the view that, given its older fleet relative to those of the relevant comparable  operators, any fleet age adjustment would result in a Controllable Mark-Up higher than 11.41%, even if the Panel were to otherwise accept Air Canada's position concerning the impact of each of the various other Adjustments which the Panel indicated must be made.

The parties have scheduled a further hearing with the Panel to occur in the last week of November 2012 to resolve the outstanding issues in dispute, including the impact of the fleet age adjustment. As a consequence, the impact, if any, to the Controllable Mark-Up on Jazz's Controllable Costs cannot be stated at this time with reasonable certainty.  Chorus anticipates having all matters settled no later than the first quarter of 2013.

No amounts have been recorded in the accounts of Chorus in 2010, 2011 or 2012 related to this claim as management has determined that it is not probable that the Air Canada claim will be successful, and it is not practicable to determine an estimate of the possible financial effect, if any, with sufficient reliability.

Chorus Aviation Inc.'s unaudited interim condensed consolidated financial statements for the three months ended September 30, 2012, and accompanying Management's Discussion and Analysis (MD&A) are available at www.chorusaviation.ca and at www.sedar.com.  A copy may also be obtained on request by contacting Investor Relations at:  investorsinfo@chorusaviation.ca or (902) 873-5094.

Investor Conference Call / Audio Webcast

Chorus will hold an analyst call at 9:30 a.m. ET on Wednesday, November 14, 2012 to discuss the third quarter results.  The call may be accessed by dialing 1-888-231-8191.  The call will be simultaneously audio webcast via: www.newswire.ca/en/webcast/detail/1054487/1146141 or in the Investor Relations section at www.chorusaviation.ca. This is a listen-in only audio webcast.  Media Player or Real Player is required to listen to the broadcast; please download well in advance of the call.

The conference call webcast will be archived on Chorus' Investor Relations website at www.chorusaviation.ca.  A playback of the call can also be accessed until midnight ET, November 21, 2012, by dialing (416) 849-0833 or toll-free 1- 855-859-2056, and passcode 50106348# (pound key).

1 Non-GAAP Financial Measures

EBITDA
EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, amortization and obsolescence) is a non-GAAP financial measure commonly used throughout all industries to view operating results before interest expense, interest income, depreciation and amortization, gains and losses on property and equipment and other non-operating income and expenses.  Management believes EBITDA assists investors in comparing Chorus' performance on a consistent basis without regard to depreciation and amortization, which are non-cash in nature and can vary significantly depending on accounting methods and non-operating factors such as historical cost.  EBITDA should not be used as an exclusive measure of cash flow because it does not account for the impact on working capital growth, capital expenditures, debt repayments and other sources and uses of cash, which are disclosed in the statement of cash flows which form part of the financial statements.

FREE CASH FLOW
Pre-conversion distributable cash was a key performance indicator used by management to evaluate the ongoing performance of Jazz Air Income Fund.  Distributable cash is not a measure which is commonly utilized in respect of a public corporation. Management believes, however, that it is a term with which its shareholders are familiar and has provided Free Cash Flow as a proxy for previously reported distributable income.  Free Cash Flow is calculated in the same manner as distributable cash. Free Cash Flow is defined as EBITDA less non-operating expenses, Maintenance Capital Expenditures to sustain the operation, and adjusted for any unrealized foreign exchange gain or loss on long-term debt and finance leases and any unusual non-operating one-time items.  Other capital expenditures incurred to facilitate growth of the business are excluded from this calculation.

ADJUSTED NET INCOME
Adjusted net income and adjusted earnings per share are calculated by adjusting net income by the amount of any unrealized foreign exchange gains and losses on long-term debt and finance leases.  During the third quarter of 2012, Chorus recorded a $10.0 million gain in unrealized foreign exchange on long-term debt and finance leases.  This adjustment more clearly reflects earnings from an operating perspective.

Caution regarding forward-looking information

This news release should be read in conjunction with Chorus' unaudited interim condensed consolidated financial statements for the three months ended September 30, 2012 and MD&A dated November 13, 2012, filed with Canadian Securities regulatory authorities (available at www.sedar.com).

Certain statements in this news release may contain statements which are forward-looking. These forward-looking statements are identified by the use of terms and phrases such as "anticipate", "believe", "could", "estimate", "expect", "intend", "may", "plan", "predict", "project", "will", "would", and similar terms and phrases, including references to assumptions. Such statements may involve but are not limited to comments with respect to strategies, expectations, planned operations or future actions.

Forward-looking statements relate to analyses and other information that are based on forecasts of future results, estimates of amounts not yet determinable and other uncertain events. Forward-looking statements, by their nature, are based on assumptions, including those described below, and are subject to important risks and uncertainties. Any forecasts or forward-looking predictions or statements cannot be relied upon due to, amongst other things, changing external events and general uncertainties of the business. Such statements involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors that may cause the actual results, performance or achievements to differ materially from those expressed in the forward-looking statements. Results indicated in forward-looking statements may differ materially from actual results for a number of reasons, including without limitation, risks relating to Chorus' relationship with Air Canada, risks relating to the airline industry, energy prices, general industry, market, credit, and economic conditions, competition, insurance issues and costs, supply issues, war, terrorist attacks, epidemic diseases, acts of God, changes in demand due to the seasonal nature of the business, the ability to reduce operating costs and employee counts, secure financing, employee relations, labour negotiations or disputes, restructuring, pension issues, currency exchange and interest rates, leverage and restructure covenants in future indebtedness, dilution of Chorus shareholders, uncertainty of dividend payments, managing growth, changes in laws, adverse regulatory developments or proceedings, pending and future litigation and actions by third parties. The forward-looking statements contained in this discussion represent Chorus' expectations as of November 13, 2012, and are subject to change after such date. However, Chorus disclaims any intention or obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statements whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise, except as required under applicable securities regulations.

About Chorus Aviation Inc.

Chorus Aviation Inc. ("Chorus") was incorporated on September 27, 2010 and is a dividend-paying holding company which owns Jazz Aviation LP, Chorus Leasing I Inc., Chorus Leasing II Inc., and Chorus Leasing III Inc. (the leasing companies own the Q400 aircraft).

Chorus is traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange under the trading symbols of CHR.A, CHR.B and CHR.DB.

For more information, visit www.chorusaviation.ca

About Jazz Aviation LP

Jazz Aviation LP has a strong history in Canadian aviation with its roots going back to the 1930s. Jazz is wholly owned by Chorus Aviation Inc. and continues to generate some of the strongest operational and financial results in the North American aviation industry.

There are two airline divisions operated by Jazz Aviation LP:  Air Canada Express and Jazz.

Air Canada Express:  Under a capacity purchase agreement with Air Canada, Jazz provides service to and from lower-density markets as well as higher-density markets at off-peak times throughout Canada and to and from certain destinations in the United States. In the third quarter of 2012, Jazz operated scheduled passenger service on behalf of Air Canada with approximately 827 departures per weekday to 84 destinations in Canada and in the United States with a fleet of Canadian-made Bombardier aircraft.

Jazz:  Under the Jazz brand, the airline offers charters throughout North America with a dedicated fleet of five Bombardier aircraft for corporate clients, governments, special interest groups and individuals seeking more convenience.  Jazz also has the ability to offer airline operators services such as ground handling, dispatching, flight load planning, training and consulting.

For more information, visit www.flyjazz.ca.

SOURCE CHORUS AVIATION INC.



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