By 2023, the sector has recovered nearly 93.8% of its passenger volume from the pre-pandemic year of 2019, with over 8.5 billion travellers. Projections even anticipate a return to normal with 9.7 billion passengers in 2024. The United States dominates the market, with over 750 million domestic passengers in 2023, representing 9% of global traffic. Over the longer term, the airport industry expects an average annual growth rate of 4.2% until 2041.

Since February 18, 2020, the eve of the stock market crash, the sector's performance has reflected a mixed reality. In Europe, results have been mixed: Aéroports de Paris and Fraport posted falls of 29% and 31% respectively. While Spain's AENA saw its shares rise by 7%, Zurich by 15% and Flughafen Wien (Vienna Airport) jumped by 39%.

By contrast, North America saw remarkable growth, with spectacular increases for the Mexican trio: Grupo Aeroportuario del Pacifico (+64%), Grupo Aeroportuario del Centro Norte (+60%) and Grupo Aeroportuario del Sureste (+98%). The prize goes to Corporacion América Airport, whose shares are up 220% on their pre-COVID value, and an impressive +950% since the April 2020 low.


Airport sector performance since February 18, 2020

There are several reasons for the takeover of Corporacion América Airport, operator of 53 airports mainly in South America.

Before the COVID-19 crisis, the company was facing multiple difficulties, high debt leverage, stagnant revenues and virtually non-existent margins (negative free cash flow and a net margin of 1.4%).

Fortunately, the storm has now cleared. The company won extensions to its most important concessions, including the operation of 35 airports in Argentina for a further ten years, in Uruguay for a further twenty years, and also in Ecuador. These extensions offered Corporacion América Airport a more stable and predictable future.

At the same time, the LATAM region saw passenger traffic return to pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2022. This recovery in air traffic was accompanied by a 25% increase in the company's commercial revenues compared with 2019.

The company also reduced its debt leverage from 2.6 times in 2019 to 1.6 times in 2023, thanks to a debt restructuring. This financial improvement was welcomed by the rating agencies, which upgraded the company's credit rating from CCC+ to B.

Projected quarterly global passenger traffic vs. 2019 level (2019 level = 100%). Source ACI (Airports Council International).

Investor appeal for Corporacion América Airport is clear, with a return to its February 2018 IPO price of $17 a share in April 2024. Meanwhile, the company's financial position has improved, with its price/earnings ratio rising from 166x in 2018 to an estimated 11x in 2024, a much more attractive level.