(Alliance News) - Heathrow Airport Holdings Ltd has returned to adjusted profit for the first time since the pandemic thanks to a bounce-back in international travel.

The owners of the largest UK airport reported an adjusted pretax profit of GBP38 million in 2023, against a loss of GBP684 million the previous year and marking the first time it has made a profit since 2019.

On a statutory basis, pretax profit multiplied to GBP701 million in 2023 from GBP169 million in 2022.

It saw a 29% jump in passengers travelling through its terminals, to 79.2 million from 61.6 million, capped off by a strong end to the year, with the group having cheered its busiest-ever December.

And Heathrow forecast that a record number of passengers would use the airport this year, pencilling in a 2.8% annual rise to 81.4 million in 2024.

The airport's current busiest year was 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic, when passenger numbers reached 80.9 million.

But the group said it was being hampered by the "huge cost challenge" set by the UK aviation regulator, having been a vocal critic of the Civil Aviation Authority's move not to allow it to raise its landing fees further.

Thomas Woldbye, Heathrow's recently appointed chief executive, said: "2023 was a good year for Heathrow from a challenging start to a great finish. We delivered much improved service for our customers, and managed to turn a small profit after three consecutive years of losses. That's a great platform to build on, although in 2024 we are expected to deliver even further improved service to more passengers, but with airport charges cut by 20% in real terms.

"We will have to pull every lever to become more efficient and make tough choices on where we spend and invest our money to overcome the huge cost challenge set by the CAA and remain profitable over the next three years."

The results come less than two months after Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund agreed to buy a 10% stake in Heathrow Airport.

Spanish infrastructure company Ferrovial SE sold its 25% share in Europe's busiest airport to the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) and to French firm Ardian, which secured a 15% stake.

Ferrovial had been the airport's largest shareholder since 2006 before the sale.

By Holly Williams, PA Business Editor

Press Association: Finance

source: PA

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