July 03, 2012
Credit: Image: Airbus
Virgin America expects to bounce an expected full-year 2012 profit into an initial public offering (IPO) in the first half of 2013, despite having posted a $49 million first-quarter loss.
CEO David Cush attributes the loss to what he terms “two unplanned events,” namely a 47% year-on-year in fuel costs in the quarter, and a switch to the Sabre reservations system.
Virgin America’s revenue, however improved 32% to $267 million in the quarter that ended March 30. The privately held airline is not required to report its earnings publicly, but it must file its financial reports with the U.S. Transportation Department.
According to Cush, the spike in fuel costs and “some challenges in revenue management and some implementation issues with the website” associated with the Sabre transition “resulted in between $25-30 million in unplanned costs in the first quarter.”
Higher fuel costs and Sabre expenses are expected to carry into the second quarter although the effect will be less than the March quarter, says Cush, adding that as long as fuel stays low the improved revenues should produce a full-year profit for Virgin America.
A profit would help Virgin America go public, which CFO Peter Hunt says could happen as early as the first half of next year. “The company should be ready then,” says Hunt.
But the markets may not be ready, which could delay the IPO. “We have patient and deep-pocketed investors who will wait for the right time,” adds Cush. “Even if the company is ready in the first part of 2013, if the markets aren’t, we aren’t going [public].”
The San Francisco-based airline recently took delivery of its sixth Airbus A320 of 2012 and does not expect any further aircraft until the beginning of next year. By the end of 2013, the fleet will have grown to 57 aircraft, says Cush.
The airline may add another market this year, although Cush says “the final decision has not been made on that.” Virgin America also is considering two new markets next year, but Cush declined to identify the destinations. “In general, we allot two-three aircraft per new transcontinental market,” he notes.