• Annual operating margin of 10% to 12%
  • Cumulative free cash flow of $775 to $875 million
  • An improving annual ROIC that is expected to exceed 13 per cent in 2020
  • Leverage ratio of 1.2 by end of 2020

CALGARY, Dec. 6, 2017 /CNW/ – WestJet (TSX: WJA) today provided 2018 to 2020 targets at its Investor Day being held in Calgary from 8:30 a.m. MT (10:30 a.m. ET) to 12:00 noon MT (2:00 p.m. ET).

WestJet is targeting an annual operating margin of between 10 per cent and 12 per cent in 2018 to 2020 and an improving annual return on invested capital (ROIC(1)) that is expected to exceed 13 per cent in 2020. From 2018 to 2020, WestJet expects to deliver cumulative free cash flow(1) of $775 to $875 million, with capital expenditures of approximately $780 million in 2018, peaking in 2019 at approximately $1 billion and dropping to approximately $870 million in 2020. In terms of its key credit metric, WestJet estimates by the end of 2020 to be at 1.2 as measured by adjusted net debt over EBITDAR(1), and it expects to grow its number of unencumbered aircraft from 51 at the end of the third quarter of 2017 to 96 aircraft in 2020.        

“We continue to invest in strategic initiatives that will support our transition from a low-cost point-to-point model into a high value-based network airline with a global footprint,” said WestJet President and CEO Gregg Saretsky. “We have been laying the foundation for this transition by investing in our network and schedule, while deepening our airline partnerships and broadening our fare products to not only defend and grow our leisure business but also to attract and retain premium travellers.”

WestJet believes its strategy to attract and retain premium travellers, combined with an enhanced revenue management system, with broadened fare products and growth in ancillary represent an annual revenue opportunity of between $300 million to $500 million through to 2022. In addition, WestJet has identified annual cost savings opportunities of $140 million to $200 million through 2022. These cost savings opportunities are spread over several initiatives that include fleet reconfigurations, airport operations cost savings, optimized maintenance plans, digital self service, and sales & distribution channel efficiencies.

“The expansion of WestJet Encore, our growing WestJet Rewards program and co-branded credit card, our penetration into the business traveller segment, combined with the launching of Swoop in the summer of 2018, and Boeing Dreamliner service commencing in 2019, give us great confidence in our ability to continue to deliver sustainable profitable growth and an improving annual return on invested capital that is expected to exceed 13 per cent in 2020. This exciting transition is all underpinned by the dedication and energy of our over 13,000 WestJetters who deliver our award-winning brand of friendly, caring service,” added Mr. Saretsky.

In-person attendance at WestJet’s Investor Day is by invitation only and the media and other interested persons are welcome to listen in via the webcast in the Media and Investor Relations section of westjet.com

Caution regarding forward-looking information
Certain information set forth in this news release, including, without limitation, information regarding targeting an annual operating margin of between 10 per cent to 12 per cent in 2018 to 2020, an improving return on invested capital that is expected to exceed 13 per cent in 2020, delivering cumulative free cash flow of $775 to $875 million from 2018 to 2020, expecting capital expenditures of approximately $780 million in 2018, approximately $1 billion in 2019 and approximately $870 million in 2020, by the end of 2020 reaching 1.2 in adjusted net debt over EBITDAR ratio, growing the number of unencumbered aircraft to 96 in 2020, an annual revenue opportunity of $300 million to $500 million through to 2022, and an annual cost savings opportunity of $140 million to $200 million through 2022, the information underlying such targets, the launching of Swoop in the summer of 2018, the launching of Boeing Dreamliner service starting in 2019, WestJet’s ability to deliver sustainable profitable growth, is forward-looking information within the meaning of applicable securities laws. By its nature, forward-looking information is subject to numerous risks and uncertainties, some of which are beyond WestJet’s control. The forward-looking information contained in this news release is based on assumptions regarding the terms of agreements which WestJet has entered into, WestJet’s current forecasts and strategy, the timing and impact of WestJet’s initiatives, the expected demand environment, access to financing and to infrastructure, the fleet and its utilization and operational performance, aircraft deliveries and option exercises, the forward-curve for jet fuel price, the expected exchange rate of the Canadian dollar to the U.S. dollar, agreements and bookings, the assessment of labour and infrastructure requirements, expectations around legislation and legislative changes, assessment of legal proceedings, and other information underlying the targets contained herein, but may vary due to factors including, but not limited to, changes in guest demand, changes in fuel prices, delays in aircraft delivery, general economic conditions, competitive environment, ability to effectively implement and maintain critical systems, material adverse regulatory changes, and other factors and risks described in WestJet’s public reports and filings which are available under WestJet’s profile at sedar.com. Readers are cautioned that undue reliance should not be placed on forward-looking information as actual results may vary materially from the forward-looking information. WestJet does not undertake to update, correct or revise any forward-looking information as a result of any new information, future events or otherwise, except as may be required by applicable law.

(1) Non-GAAP measures
This news release contains disclosure respecting non-GAAP performance measures. These measures are included to enhance the overall understanding of WestJet’s financial performance and to provide an alternative method for assessing WestJet’s operating results in a manner that is focused on the performance of WestJet’s ongoing operations, and to provide a more consistent basis for comparison between reporting periods. These measures are not calculated in accordance with, or as an alternative to, GAAP and do not have standardized meanings. Therefore, they may not be comparable to similar measures provided by other entities. Readers are urged to review the section entitled “Reconciliation of non-GAAP and additional GAAP measures” in WestJet’s management’s discussion and analysis of financial results for the three and nine months ended September 30, 2017, which is available under WestJet’s profile on SEDAR at sedar.com, for a further discussion of such non-GAAP measures and a reconciliation of such measures to GAAP.

  • Adjusted debt: The sum of long-term debt and off-balance-sheet aircraft operating leases. Our practice, consistent with common airline industry practice, is to multiply the trailing 12 months of aircraft leasing expense by 7.5 to derive a present value debt equivalent. This measure is used in the calculation of adjusted net debt to EBITDAR, as defined below.
  • Adjusted net debt: Adjusted debt less cash, cash equivalents and marketable securities. This measure is used in the calculation of adjusted net debt to EBITDAR, as defined below.
  • EBITDAR: Earnings before net finance costs, taxes, depreciation, amortization, aircraft rent and other items, such as asset impairments, gains and losses on derivatives, and foreign exchange gains or losses. Trailing 12 months EBITDAR is a measure commonly used in the airline industry to evaluate results by excluding differences in the method by which an airline finances its aircraft.
  • CASM, excluding fuel and employee profit share: CASM is a common measure used in the airline industry to measure an airline’s cost structure and efficiency. We exclude the effects of aircraft fuel expense and employee profit share expense to assess the operating performance of our business. Fuel expense is excluded from our operating results because fuel prices are affected by a host of factors outside our control. Additionally, employee profit share expense is excluded as it varies based on the outcome of our net earnings. Excluding these expenses allows us to analyze our operating results to those of other airlines.
  • Return on invested capital: ROIC is a measure commonly used in the airline industry to assess the efficiency with which a company allocates its capital to generate returns. Return is calculated based on our earnings before tax, excluding special items, finance costs and implied interest on our off-balance-sheet aircraft leases. Invested capital includes average long-term debt, average finance lease obligations, average shareholders’ equity and off-balance-sheet aircraft operating leases.
  • Free cash flow: Operating cash flow less capital expenditures. This measure is used to calculate the amount of cash available that can be used to pursue other opportunities after maintaining and expanding the asset base.

Major Annual Assumptions

2018

2019

2020

GDP Canada

2%

2%

2%

Canadian dollar per U.S dollar

1.29

1.30

1.32

Average Jet fuel price (Canadian cents per litre)

67

68

68

 

About WestJet
WestJet is proud to be named Best Airline in Canada and one of the best Low Cost Airlines in North America, based on authentic reviews from the travelling public on Trip Advisor, the world’s largest travel site. We are one of very few airlines globally that does not commercially overbook. Together with our regional airline, WestJet Encore, we offer scheduled service to more than 100 destinations in North America, Central America, the Caribbean and Europe and to more than 175 destinations in over 20 countries through our airline partnerships. WestJet Vacations offers affordable, flexible vacations to more than 60 destinations and the choice of more than 800 hotels, resorts, condos and villas.  Members of the WestJet Rewards program earn WestJet dollars on flights, vacation packages and more. Members use WestJet dollars towards the purchase of flights and vacations packages to any WestJet destination with no blackout periods, and have access to Member Exclusive fares offering deals to WestJet destinations throughout our network and those of our partner airlines.

WestJet is publicly traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) under the symbol WJA. For more information about everything WestJet, please visit westjet.com.  

Recent recognition includes:
2017 Five-Star Airline in the Low-Cost Category (The Airline Passenger Experience Association)
2017/2016 Canada’s Most Trusted Airline (Gustavson School of Business at the University of Victoria)
2017 Best Airline in Canada and Travellers’ Choice Winner Mid-Sized and Low Cost Airlines – North America (TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice awards for Airlines)
2016 Canada’s most reputable company for Corporate Social Responsibility (Reputation Institute)
2016/2015/2014/2013/2012 Ranked top three for Canadian Brands (Canadian Business Magazine)
2016/2015/2014/2013 WestJet RBC World Elite MasterCard ranked #1 in Canada (MoneySense magazine)
2015/2011/2010/2008/2007/2006/2005 Canada’s Most Admired Corporate Culture (Waterstone Human Capital)
2015 Best Employers in Canada (Aon Hewitt)

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SOURCE WestJet