The Airports Company of South Africa (Acsa), which is investing R22-billion to upgrade airports by 2012, would seek to provide the infrastructure cost effectively, and without adversely affecting the operations of the airlines, its MD said on Thursday.

Speaking at Acsa’s annual results, MD Monhla Hlahla said South Africa, as a country, had to get used to investing in infrastructure.

“The economy requires bigger, better and more efficient infrastructure from us,” she said.

However, Hlahla noted that, in the current challenging climate, the country had to work smarter in terms of the debt market, and that Acsa, in particular, had to work smarter in terms of the input costs for its expansion programme.

“We have to look at our capital expenditures and our operational expenditures to ensure that we spend money where it is needed the most. Our funding plan will be a critical enabler for our business over the next three years,” she commented.

Acsa had spent R5,2-billion in the 2008 financial year, which was the first year of the five-year R22-billion expansion programme. The cost of the programme had already increased by about 14%, from an original amount of R19,3-billion.

In the short term, Acsa expected a slowdown in the growth of domestic traffic to continue in the 2009 and 2010 financial years.

However, Hlahla said that Acsa was expecting to take advantage of the peak in passenger numbers during the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Meanwhile, Transport Minister Jeff Radebe commented that Acsa’s expansion programme was in line with the economic growth and the 2010 FIFA World Cup expectations of the country, adding that there was “no option” but to succeed in 2010.

Acsa would have spent 62% of the total capital expenditure (capex) by 2010.

The company reported that there had been a 10,6% increase in passenger traffic during the year to 36-million passengers, while its net profit for the year had decreased by 17,8% to R546-million, compared with R664-million in 2007.

Revenues were up 9,1% to R2,8-billion for the year, compared with R2,6-billion the year before.

Aeronautical revenue was at R1,36-billion, while non aeronautical revenues were at R1,42-billion. Non aeronautical revenue had formed 51% of the total revenue for the year, compared with 46% the year before.

Hlahla said that Acsa would, in the years ahead, focus on creating more non aeronautical revenues, such as retail and advertising, while also ensuring that its capacity utilisation efficiencies were improved, in order to unlock value in the medium to long term.

Acsa financial director Prischillah Mabelane noted that despite the high capex, the company had a sustained traffic base, a strong revenue base and a solid balance sheet.