KQ & Fuel Hedging

Last week, Kenya Airways (KQ), announced a pre-tax loss of Kshs 29.7 billion (about $297 million) for the year 2015. This was a shocker as it was the largest announced loss in corporate Kenya’s history and  the airline’s management have given various reasons of the loss.

The summarized results released show that the airline had unrealized losses on fuel derivatives of Kshs 5.7 billon ($57 million) for the year and realized losses of Kshs 1.6 billion ($16 million) .  After their last big loss of 2009 many thought, they would shy away from fuel hedging, but that practice is quite common and is very useful for airlines.

  • A 2014 Bloomberg piece notes that Air France-KLM hedged 63% of its estimated $2.4 billion fuel bill for the third quarter, compared with 74% of its $2.5 billion consumption a year earlier. Also that, Ryanair Holdings Plc, Europe’s biggest discount carrier, kept its coverage unchanged for this financial year at 90%.
  • Kenya Airways fuel bill was about $400m in 2014. The KQ 2012 rights issue Information Memorandum noted that, in December 2009, the KQ Board approved a fuel hedging policy of hedging for up to 80% of the Group’s fuel requirements for the upcoming 12 months and for up to 50% of its fuel requirements for the upcoming 24 months, on a rolling basis.
  • Fuel hedging in Africa:   Two of KQ’s main rivals are Ethiopian airlines (ET) and South Africa Airways (SAA). ET recognizes that jet fuel is a major expenditure of the airline (about $791 million in 2012) and they manage this risk using various hedging strategies for a maximum period of two years on a rolling basis; and the maximum to be hedged is 75%. At SAA, where fuel is also their biggest cost (35% or $754 million in 2012), their policy is to hedge a maximum of 60% of  the fuel exposure on a 12-month rolling basis.
  • The hedges have actually worked well in Kenya Airways favor except for the spike years of 2009 and 2015. There was no loss in 2012 and 2013,a slight gain in 2014 and now a larger loss in 2015.
  • So fuel hedges are not a factor in KQ’s record loss.