The State-owned airport operator Airports Company South Africa (Acsa) would spend some R19,3-billion over the next five years on upgrading the country’s airports to meet the growing demand, MD Monhla Hlahla said on Thursday.

In the 2006/7 financial year, Acsa’s capital expenditure (capex) increased by over 30%, from R1,26-billion to R1,7-billion, and, in the new financial year, the company planned to spend R4,8-billion.

Going forward, Hlahla said that Acsa, which owns ten airports in South Africa and handles about 98% of the country’s air traffic, would invest about R4-billion a year on expanding capacity. This, she added, was more than the company had spent in the last three years combined.

The capex would be invested in various developments to expand capacity at OR Tambo International Airport, Cape Town International Airport, Durban International Airport and other smaller domestic airports. It was also building South Africa’s first new greenfields’ airport in more than a decade in Durban.

Acsa would fund its R19-billion-plus capex plan by its set of new tariff charges, and, partially, by its R12-billion bond programme.

Between 2001 and 2006, average passenger service charges were 4%, and over the same corresponding period to 2012, these charges would increase 11,4% on average, reflecting the new facilities that would be coming on stream over the five-year period.

During the year under review, Acsa successfully issued its inaugural bond of R2-billion, due for March 2019.

“After years of threatening to go to the market, we have actually done it,” FD Brooks Mparutsa said.

Acsa would now enter the market “more and more every year” to help fund its planned annual expenditure of R4-billion, Hlahla added.

Acsa’s scaled-up capex was driven by the need to expand its capacity to meet increased passenger volume demands.

In the year under review, passenger volumes increased by almost 11%, and the company was expecting growth to continue at a level of about 8% a year going forward.

The total number of passengers increased to 16,46-million.

The higher number of passengers that made use of air travel boosted Acsa’s financial performance, with the company reporting headline earnings growth of 7% to R663-million. Revenue increased to R2,56-billion, from R2,17-billion a year earlier.

South Africa’s smaller airports, such as Bloemfontein and Kimberley, are underpinning the double-digit growth of Acsa’s network of airports.