Funding innovation and growth in ATM and airports
Working on behalf of finance and investor customers including: European Investment Bank (EIB), European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), Barclays and Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS).
Developments in the European ATM industry are creating new opportunities for ATM investment and financing, both for service providers to invest and for banks to provide finance. From the lender perspective, the investment lifecycle starts with identifying the most appropriate financing instruments, moves on to conducting due diligence, then agreeing terms, and subsequently focuses on delivering funds and managing repayment, reporting, and potentially reinvestment.
Whereas the main sources of investment finance are debt and equity, these can also be supplemented by grant funding, at either national or European level. For example €3bn was allocated for SESAR implementation up to 2020, and such public availability of grants is a significant opportunity for ATM stakeholders to access additional funds. There are also economic and regulatory pressures to reduce the costs of services, with many providers now looking to take advantage of the availability of finance and grants to invest in high tech automation as a way of providing more cost-efficient services.
In an increasingly competitive market, where the cost of debt has also reached historic lows, debt finance can help bring forward capital programmes that deliver improved performance and commercial advantage. For ANSPs, early investment in new technologies such as remote towers or virtual centres, envisaged in SESAR, can deliver competitive advantage. Debt can also inject momentum into cooperative initiatives such as industry partnerships for the joint development of systems supporting future SESAR concepts such as Flight Object.
Once the principle of funding is agreed, loans may be provided against a portfolio of projects (or deliverables), requiring due diligence and reporting prior to drawdown. Some loans might be less project-focused and instead focussed on overall business performance, requiring analysis and reporting against strategic objectives and business risks.
Helios has provided wide-ranging consultancy support to investors, as well as to those seeking investment over many years. Here we provide a snapshot of just some of the work undertaken on behalf of banks and investors.
Role of Helios
EBRD: Advisors to the air transport team assisting with due diligence, traffic forecasting, economic modelling, technical procurement, operational performance assessment and competition across a broad geographical spread of loan beneficiaries. Helios has also provided support during loan draw down, which can include procurement advice as new projects are launched. Two specific examples include:
- Due dilgence on an investment opportunity at a European ANSP, assessing whether the investment was in line with EBRD requirements, and including a value-for-money approach to the procurement. The analysis modelled how the investment program would affect ANS revenues allocated to en-route and terminal charging zones, and how ultimately the financial position of the ANSP would be impacted. Other aspects analysed in this study included efficiency benefits, safety and other benefits provided by the investment, including an assessment of the benefits for end users, and of how the project would align with EBRD policies and strategic objectives. This analysis was intended to inform the EBRD in its financial modelling and decision-making process of whether to extend the loan.
- High level critical review of the business plan for an airport in Eastern Europe and evaluate its operational results. The work included a comparative analysis of the airport KPIs vis-à-vis its regional peers. Analysis undertaken included: quality of revenues and underlying earnings, business/passenger traffic dependence on key airlines, comparative analysis of airport charges vs its main competitors, a high level review of the airport's Business Plan including the underlying assumptions and the planned investment programme. The team held talks with the airport to evaluate how the key assumptions are likely to change over time as a result of changing market environment and its strategy. The work concluded with high level recommendations on ways to improve/optimize the airport's results over the next medium term, including a critical opinion on possible privatisation (with strategic investors and/or by means of an IPO) and/or concession.
EIB: Helios has provided expert support in lending for the deployment of ATM infrastructure, including due diligence, market briefings for the bank and advising on the adaptions of EIB lending instruments to support bank lending within ATM. Specific project examples include:
- Consultancy support in the pre-appraisal and appraisal of a major ANSP's loan application. Finance was sought to support a long-term investment into state of the art ATM technology including next generation Flight Data Processing capability. Building on our experience in ATM due diligence and financial appraisals, our approach was to assess project risks including alignment of the investment programme with Single European Sky objectives and regulations. We also benchmarked the investment against comparable and alternative projects in other States in order to evaluate the overall viability and justification for the investment. An appraisal report was prepared to enable the bank to make a sound judgement on the eligibility and alignment of the investment with the bank's overall lending criteria.
- Expert support in lending for SESAR Deployment. This included providing a market briefing for the Bank and advising on the adaptions of EIB lending instruments to supporting Bank lending within ATM, notably for SESAR deployment. This sat alongside a broader discussion between the Bank and the Commission on the use of financial instruments for generating private sector investment in Europe.
Barclays / Assured: Helios is a long-standing advisor to the inter-creditor agent for the group of finance parties funding a major ANSP, and Assured, the bond house which underwrites the loan. Activities include technical due diligence, advice on the Long Term Investment Plan in ANS and assessment of the impact on the ANSP of the economic regulatory process.
USS: Helios supported the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) in relation to investment into a shareholder group of NATS. Helios was commissioned to undertake due diligence based on our comprehensive market knowledge of the ANSP and the European regulatory environment. The work included developing scenarios of future regulatory regimes and settlements, so their financial impacts could be modelled. Helios also evaluated the performance and prospects of the regulated and unregulated businesses and evaluated the competitive environment for the unregulated business.
Helios has a unique understanding of the ATM and airports market alongside the challenges of successful long term infrastructure investments in ATM, including application of the relevant procurement rules. The team has wide experience of applying finance instruments and grant funding to facilitate implementation, regularly building regulatory and financial models to support its investment advice.
Helios advises at every stage of the investment lifecycle. Our technical knowledge and market understanding is called upon to provide independent assessments of investment opportunities, and to support due diligence on large capital expenditure projects. That expertise can also be used to model and quantify the financial and economic benefits of operational change helping to build positive financial cases for investment. Our own database of information and statistics supports our work across air navigation services, airports and airlines.
"Over the past couple of years Helios has been helping the Bank assess where the lending requirements are in the ATM sector, particularly with respect to the SES initiative as we move into the SESAR deployment phase. Their knowledge of the sector and breadth of expertise is impressive and their experience with stakeholders from across the industry carries real added value. It has been a pleasure working with them." Stephen O'Driscoll, The European Investment Bank
"On behalf of the Alliance Executive Management (AEM) Team and all eight Alliance Members that participated … I would like to formally thank you for all the work that you and the wider Helios team did for our INEA application. You and your team worked under a severely tight deadline, within a complex environment of eight stakeholders to deliver an excellent proposal and track fulfilment of all administrative requirements. The feedback that I have received from the eight stakeholders is extremely positive – they appreciated your help, support and availability when they needed you most." Branka Subotic