Dart Group – Follow up on fuel hedging and comprehensive income

As proposed in the last Dart Group post, I wanted to take a better look at the impacts on fuel hedging.

Quick summary (or spoiler): During writing the post, I got less and less sure of what to do with the fuel hedges, so the post got very long without a satisfying end. If you are not interested in the process and accounting details, the result is: I am not sure.

Let us start with a “accounting refresher” first.

Accounting for Cash flow hedges

Dart Group uses “cash flow hedges” for their fuel hedges. What does that mean ? Normally, any derivative financial instrument would be considered a “trading instrument” and would have to be marked-to-market directly through P&L.

If a company however wants to hedge a future cashflow (doesn’t matter if in- or outflow) one can apply a technique called “cash flow hedging” which requires basically two things

1) one is able to predict future cashflows with a reasonable accuracy
2) one uses a heging instrument which is “efficient” i.e. tracks the value of the hedged

If one achieves “cash flow hedging” treatment, then the hedge will treated in the balance sheet (under iFRS) the following way:

A) the value changes in the derivatives can be recorded under “OCI” (other comprehensive income)
b) in the future, when the cashflow actually happens, the corresponding hedging gain or loss will then be added or subtracted from the then realised spot price

This is what Dart Group is doing with its fuel hedging and as Wexboy commented fully aligned with accounting standards.

However my argument was that you shouldn’t ignore those movements in OCI but try to understand them and make adjustments if necessary. In order to understand this better, we have unfortunately step beck a little bit and ask the following question:

What is a hedge anyway and when is a hedge a speculation ?

In the case of Dart and airlines in general, this question is quite difficult to answer. In an ideal world as a company, you would like to pass on all your changes in costs directly to your customers and just earn a fixed fee on your products. As we all know, prices on tickets are relatively volatile, however many clients prefer to fix a price well before they start a trip in order to be able to control their budget.

An airline could also, if they were really really good speculators, create a big competitive advantage if they for example could hedge their fuel at low prices while the competitors have to buy much more expensive fuel on the spot markets if prices are rising. However, this is clearly speculation, not hedging as it could go the other way as well.

accounting wise however, one does not distinguish between “economic” hedging and what I call speculation.

So let’s look at Dart Group.


Before one starts to speculate how and what Dart is hedging, it makes sense to look at the annual report to find out what they are actually saying.

On Page 21 of the 2011 report they give us the following information:

2011 2010
Average hedged Price per ton $ 870 786
Percentage of estimated annual fuel requirement hedged for the next financial year 91% 90%

So we know now, that they have hedged ~90% of ALL fuel requirements according to this and we know the price.-

On page 67 we can look at fuel costs (in GBP):

2011 2010
Fuel Cost 122.8 95.3

On page 57 we can see the fair values of the fuel hedges, both an the asset and liability side:

2011 2010
Fair value Assets Forward jet fuel contracts 55.9 16.4
Fair value Liabilities Forward jet fuel contracts -17.8 -8.7
calc net Fair Value 38.1 7.7
Delta yoy 30.4

On page 58 we can see that in 2011, none of the fair value movements have been recorded in equity, we can also look at the total fair value movement of the ALL hedges (including currency) which were

2011 2010
Fair value Assets all hedges 59.4 21.7
Fair value Liabilities Forwardalll hedges -24.7 -9.7
calc net Fair Vlaue 34.7 12
Delta yoy 22.7

So basically, fuel hedges increased by ~ 30 mn GBP in vALue, FX hedges lost ~ 8 mn GBP

On page 61 they give us another interesting piece of information:

2011 2010
Impact on Profit and Loss 10% change in jet fuel prices 3.8 0.8
2011 2010
Profit for the year 17.3 15.6
Exchange differences on translating foreign operations 0 0
Effective portion of fair value movements in cash flow hedges 23 10.6
Net change in fair value of effective cash flow hedges transferred to profit -1.8 0.1
Taxation on components of other comprehensive income -5.2 -3
Other comprehensive income and expense for the period, net of taxation 16 7.7
Total comprehensive income for the period all attributable to owners of the parent 33.3 23.3

One important final piece of information:

Prepayments or “deferred income” stood a 177 mn GBP against trailing sales of 540 mn GBP.

So how to interpret those numbers ?

A) as the hedges seem to qualify almost completely as “cashflow hedge”, we can assume that they use “traditional hedges” like forwards or (tight) collars to hedge

B) IMPORTANT: Dart Group “hedges” 90% of next years fuel prices, but only 177/540 = 32% of (trailing) sales are prepaid. So one could argue that in order to “truly” hedge, Dart should only hedge a third of next year’s fuel consumption as for the rest, the final sale price of the tickets is still variable.

If the competitors don’t hedge, than Dart would have locked in potentially different fuel prices than the competition for 60% of next years fuel consumption and therefore run the risk of being uncompetitive if fuel prices fall.

So coming back to the initial question: What are we going to do with the change in value in OCI for dart Group ?

I have to say I am not sure anymore. I am oK with “ignoring” the part that is covered by deferred income but I honestly don’t know what to do with the part which is “speculation”.

I have quickly checked Ryanair’s latest statements and Easyjets last annual report.

While Ryanair similar to Dart seems to hedge 90% of next years fuel cost, Easyjet only hedges 65-85% of next years fuel charges and 45-65% of the costs in 2 years time.

Ryanair interestingly said that increasing fuel prices were responsible for a 29% profit decline. That sounds strange as they were supposed to be 90% hedged. Interestingly, fuel prices for Jet fuel decreased strongly in Q2, so the problem for Ryanair seem to have been locking in high fuel costs whereas some competitors were able to buy cheaper fuel in the spot market and compete better on ticket prices.

Bloomberg even compiles hedging ratios across companies:

Jet Fuel Hedging Positions for Europe-Based Airlines (Table)
2012-07-30 07:46:25.103 GMT

(Updates with Ryanair.)

By Rupert Rowling
July 30 (Bloomberg) — The following table shows the amount
of jet fuel consumption hedged by European airlines to guard
against price fluctuations.
Data is compiled mainly from company statements and is
updated as it becomes available. Hedges are for prices per
metric ton of jet fuel, unless otherwise stated.

Company/ Percent Hedging Period Price
Disclosure Date Hedged
————— —— ————– —–

Ryanair Holdings Plc
7/30/12 90% July to Sept. 2012 $840
7/30/12 90% Oct. to Dec. 2012 $990
7/30/12 90% Jan. to March 2013 $998
7/30/12 90% April to June 2013 $985
7/30/12 90% July to Sept. 2013 $1,025
7/30/12 90% Oct. to Dec. 2013 $1,005
7/30/12 90% 2013 $1,000
7/30/12 50% Jan. to June 2014 $940

EasyJet Plc
7/25/12 85% Three Months to Sept. 2012 $983
7/25/12 79% Year to Sept. 2012 $964
7/25/12 77% Year to Sept. 2013 $985

Air Berlin Plc
5/15/12 82% April to June 2012 Not Given
5/15/12 92% July to Sept. 2012 Not Given
5/15/12 61% Oct. to Dec. 2012 Not Given

International Consolidated Airlines Group SA*
5/11/12 80% April to June 2012 Not Given
5/11/12 69% July to Sept. 2012 Not Given
5/11/12 55% Oct. to Dec. 2012 Not Given
5/11/12 55% 12-month forward Not Given

Vueling Airlines SA
5/10/12 76% 2012 $1,023
5/10/12 71% April to June 2012 $1,008
5/10/12 83% July to Sept. 2012 $1,035
5/10/12 74% Oct. to Dec. 2012 $1,042
5/10/12 28% 2013 $1,027

Air France-KLM Group
5/4/12 60% April to June 2012 $1,081
5/4/12 53% July to Sept. 2012 $1,081
5/4/12 50% Oct. to Dec. 2012 $1,078

SAS Group
5/3/12 50% April to June 2012 Not Given
5/3/12 49% July to Sept. 2012 Not Given
5/3/12 48% Oct. to Dec. 2012 Not Given
5/3/12 50% Jan. to March 2013 Not Given

Aer Lingus Group Plc**
3/29/12 62% 2012 $972
3/29/12 7% 2013 $991

Deutsche Lufthansa AG
3/15/12 74% 2012 $107/barrel
(Brent crude)

*Hedging breakeven for 2012 at $1,003 a ton, according to May 11
**Aer Lingus figures as of Dec. 31


To be honest, I am not sure what to do with the fair value movements in OCI. To simply ignore them and assume mean reversion would be very naive. The extent of the movements is just too large. However the impact of the fuel hedging is difficult to estimate as it depends on the behaviour of the competitors.

In general, a positive movement in fair value should be positive for the company and vice versa. nevertheless, the whole fuel hedging issue exposes Dart to quite substantial business risk, especially for the part which is not covered by deferred income.

However, this exercise made it clear to me that running airlines is a quite difficult business, especially in times of volatile fuel prices.

For the time being, I will stick with my half position and try to learn more about it.

One technical remark with regard to hedging:

In the “good old times”, fuel hedging could be done without cash collateral. A bank would happily “step in between” the airline and the futures market and only require cash at settlement of the contract.

As one of the consequences of the finanical crisis, every bank now requires cash collateral on a short term basis from the airlines for the fuel hedging contracts. For the airlines this means a significant increase in reuqired working capital. Lufthansa et al are lobbying strongly against this, but especially for smaller carriers this is a problem.

As a proxy I would use 25% of the notional as working capital requirement for fuel hedges. For Dart this would mean that 25% of around 150 mn GP or 40 mn GBP of Dart’s liquidity should be considered as “locked” for fuel hedging cash collateral.


  • Fun fact: 83% of Southwest’s profits between 1998-2008 were from realized fuel hedge gains.

  • I shd have defined the accting treatment in my last comment! Bt you do a grt job of it here. ‘One achieves “cash flow hedging” treatment’ = me saying a hedge is ‘effective’.

    Airline hedging: Clearly they hedge! Most hedge a high % of expected fuel costs within 1 year, and a smaller subset hedge perhaps a half/third of that % for a 2nd year. In general, margins are low, the business is commoditized, and the levers they control are limited – hence the preference for hedging. And there’s always comfort in copying your peers… A couple of airlines have boasted of their hedging savvy, but if they’re disciplined it’s really not like that: Sure, they can hopefully be smart in leading/lagging their execution of hedges, but it will be done within a hedging process/timeline framework that essentially forces them to steadily/regularly add hedging (pretty much regardless of price).

    More generally, people debate shd you hedge everything, or nothing! On average, long-term, they are probably equal in results. And clearly there’s a real/significant embedded cost in hedging everything… So I guess you should hedge nothing!? I was always bemused when FDs/CFOs wd excitedly point out that conclusion… I’d agree that in the long-term term a no-hedge policy was financially superior – and then gently remind them they probably wdn’t be around to see that proved… A remarkable selling tool!

    There’s a happy medium – business is tough, much of it is uncontrollable, and companies work with/cling to their budgets – using hedges to eliminate some/all market volatility within management’s usual 1 to 2 year horizon is immensely appealing. Longer-term market trends/volatility can then be absorbed in future budgeting cycles. In fact, within industries that usually hedge, I’d argue there may be a net benefit to customers – sure they ultimately pay for hedging costs, but I’d argue the industry will be more aggressive & accept lower margins if significant market volatility is eliminated as a major risk for them.

    I wdn’t be concerned about the gap between deferred income and forecasted fuel costs/revenues (which keeps getting larger, as consumers change their behaviour). I certainly wouldn’t consider it speculation. A 90% hedge seems aggressive, but if fuel costs/revenues change all it takes is a mere phone call to flip some of those hedges out into the following year. So economically, there’s v little risk of over-hedging. From an accting perspective, it’s a little messier – it’s obvious you’re still hedging an exposure but the change in the timeline may force you to re-allocate the hedge as an ‘ineffective’ gain/loss to the current year P&L. This is why I’d like to always see a breakout of current year derivative gains/losses, as I’m happy to exclude ineffective outstanding hedges – I consider they still properly belong to future earnings. As you can see, I prefer to think in economic/cash terms, rather than accting terms – in business (and investing?!), good things happen when you do that..! In fact, I’ve often been amazed to see companies forego hedges which are (or they fear will become) ineffective – this is nucking futs, they prefer to risk possibly v significant real world volatility rather than paper/accting volatility?!

    btw I’d have a lower expectation of the cash collateral/margin required – on average, I’d estimate required margin on futures contract is around 10%. Dart has v little debt, so clearly they have the opportunity to shop around (or just answer the phone – the banks/brokers will be calling!). If they keep things simple, they cd just access the futures market themselves fairly simply & with a minimum of a learning curve. Dealing via a large bank, I’d argue they may be able to avoid posting collateral, or to minimize it: Dart’s financially strong, and the bank would just set a credit/mark-to-market limit. What’s in it for the bank? Well, company access, spreads/fees, and a better picture of market flows. Also, much of a bank’s book is hedged internally/externally, so any collateral/margin that a bank cannot avoid posting is probably a v tiny % of their overall nominal trades – so they may just consider that as a capital cost of that business (just like their staff).

  • red,

    thnaks for the link. However I think their view might be a little bit simplistic as tehy don’t take into account the “game theory” aspect with lower hedging and variable ticket prices.

    In general, I would agree. Less volatility is always better and should be value enhancing.


  • “To simply ignore them and assume mean reversion would be very naive.”

    Or the the way around:


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