Fraport's profit more than doubles, but misses forecast on high costs

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Outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Frankfurt

By Anna Mackenzie

(Reuters) -Frankfurt Airport operator Fraport said on Thursday that first-quarter core profit more than doubled as passenger numbers rebounded, but the results missed market expectations as high staffing and energy costs weighed.

Fraport shares were down 5.4% at 0750 GMT, one of the worst performers on the German mid-cap index.

The group, which operates 28 airports around the world, reported a 123.9% year-on-year rise in quarterly core earnings (EBITDA) to 158.3 million euros ($175.4 million). This was 21% below the pre-pandemic 2019 figure.

It said the results were boosted by an ongoing recovery in passenger number across its global network of airports, with traffic at its home-base airport in Frankfurt growing by 56% in the first quarter.

But analysts at Jefferies said that adjusted for one-offs in the aviation division, Fraport's EBITDA was 8% below consensus due to higher staff and energy costs.

"Cost inflation remains the key headwind for Fraport," Jefferies wrote in a note to clients.

After staff shortages caused chaos at European airports last year, the group has been focusing on a recruitment drive across Europe in order to prepare for increasing footfall this summer.

Fraport said it expected passenger traffic in Frankfurt to grow between 15% and 25% this summer.

"We are cautiously optimistic that we can maintain operations as stable as during the recent Easter peak," Fraport's CEO Stefan Schulte said.

The company confirmed its full-year guidance, expecting passenger traffic in Frankfurt to reach up to about 90% of the levels seen pre-pandemic.

($1 = 0.9024 euros)

(Reporting by Anna Mackenzie and Anastasiia Kozlova in Gdansk; Editing by Milla Nissi and Sharon Singleton)