Standard & Poor's: The Impact On Airports If Ebola Spreads Globally

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Airports are likely to see a sudden drop in passenger numbers if the deadly Ebola spreads globally, according to analysts at the ratings agency Standard & Poor’s.

The analysts asked the question: Would a more widespread outbreak of Ebola result in people reconsidering their travel plans?

They looked at the potential impact on the credit quality of Asia-Pacific and European airport sectors.

Credit analysts Thomas Jacquot in Asia-Pacific and Olli Rouhiainen in Europe assess what would happen to airport credit ratings if Ebola adopted a similar passenger pattern as the SARS epidemic did just over 10 years ago.

Key assumptions for that scenario would be a 10% drop in international passenger numbers during 2015, recovering to 2014 levels by the end of 2016.

The catch-up year would be 2017 when passenger numbers would return to normal levels.

Here’s what happened to airport passenger traffic during the SARS epidemic:

Under the Standard & Poor’s analysis, the global spread of Ebola would have a medium financial impact on Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane airports. The financial impact to Perth and Adelaide would be low.

“Based on our hypothetical scenario, we believe that the sector as a whole would not be materially affected and the overall credit quality would remain somewhat stable,” says Thomas Jacquot, in the report.

“While we see certain airports showing greater resilience to our scenario, the greater risk faced by others is only relative and do not necessarily reflect a high probability of rating action.”

The analysts do point to one unknown factor in their assessment: The fear of potentially sitting next to someone affected by the disease in the context of no known cure and a higher mortality rates compared to SARS.

Ebola cases, except for isolated cases in Europe and the US, have mainly been confirmed to West Africa.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) a total of 13,268 confirmed, probable and suspected cases of Ebola virus disease have been reported. There have been 4,960 deaths.

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