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Edited Transcript of CPA earnings conference call or presentation 9-Aug-18 4:00pm GMT

Q2 2018 Copa Holdings SA Earnings Call

Panama May 21, 2019 (Thomson StreetEvents) -- Edited Transcript of Copa Holdings SA earnings conference call or presentation Thursday, August 9, 2018 at 4:00:00pm GMT

TEXT version of Transcript

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Corporate Participants

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* Jose Montero

Copa Holdings, S.A. - CFO

* Pedro Heilbron

Copa Holdings, S.A. - CEO & Director

* Raul Pascual

Copa Holdings, S.A. - Director of IR

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Conference Call Participants

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* Conor T. Cunningham

Cowen and Company, LLC, Research Division - Associate

* Daniel J. Mckenzie

The Buckingham Research Group Incorporated - Research Analyst

* Hunter Kent Keay

Wolfe Research, LLC - MD and Senior Analyst of Airlines, Aerospace & Defense

* Joseph William DeNardi

Stifel, Nicolaus & Company, Incorporated, Research Division - MD & Airline Analyst

* Marcos Barreto Guerrero

Citigroup Inc, Research Division - Research Analyst

* Raymond William Wong

Evercore ISI Institutional Equities, Research Division - Analyst

* Savanthi Nipunika Syth

Raymond James & Associates, Inc., Research Division - Airlines Analyst

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Presentation

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Operator [1]

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Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by. Welcome to the Copa Holdings Second Quarter Earnings Call. (Operator Instructions) As a reminder, this call is being webcast and recorded on August 9, 2018.

Now we'll turn the conference call over to Raul Pascual, Director of Investor Relations. Sir, you may begin.

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Raul Pascual, Copa Holdings, S.A. - Director of IR [2]

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Thank you very much, and welcome, everyone, to our second quarter earnings call. Joining us today are Pedro Heilbron, CEO of Copa Holdings; and Jose Montero, our CFO.

First, Pedro will start with our second quarter highlights. Followed by Jose, who will discuss our financial results. Immediately after, we will open up the call for questions from analysts.

Copa Holdings' financial reports have been prepared in accordance with International Financial Reporting Standards. In today's call, we will discuss non-IFRS financial measures. A reconciliation of the non-IFRS to IFRS financial measures can be found in our earnings release, which has been posted on the company's website, copa.com.

In addition, our discussion will contain forward-looking statements, not limited to historical facts, that reflect the company's current beliefs, expectations and intentions regarding future events and results. These forward-looking statements involve risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially and are based on assumptions that are subject to change. Many of these risks and uncertainties are discussed in our annual report filed with the SEC.

Now I'd like to turn the call over to our CEO, Mr. Pedro Heilbron.

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Pedro Heilbron, Copa Holdings, S.A. - CEO & Director [3]

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Thank you, Raul. Good morning to all, and thank you for participating in our second quarter earnings call. First of all, I want to congratulate all of our coworkers for their efforts during the quarter. Their ongoing dedication and commitment keeps us at the forefront of Latin American aviation.

The second quarter presented us with several challenges, especially in the commercial front. We faced the sudden cancellation of close to 900 flights to Venezuela, of which about half were eventually reinstated, and weakening currencies in the region, mainly in Brazil and Argentina. In addition, a year-over-year increase of 33% in our effective fuel price put significant pressure on unit cost and resulted in a year-over-year reduction in margins.

We still firmly believe that higher oil prices should translate into stronger Latin American economy and eventually higher yields to offset the additional fuel expense. But this effect is not immediate and hasn't happened yet.

Among the main highlights for the quarter. Passenger traffic grew a solid 13% year-over-year, outpacing our capacity growth of 11.2%. This resulted in a strong 83.5% load factor, 1.3 percentage points higher year-over-year. Yields came in at $0.114 or 2.2% lower than in the second quarter of 2017. Unit revenues or RASM decreased 0.6% year-over-year to $0.098.

On the cost side, CASM came in at $0.09, 4.8% higher year-over-year due to higher fuel expenses. However, ex fuel unit cost came in at $0.06 or 5.1% lower year-over-year due to the timing of certain events and cost-reduction efforts. Our operating margin came in at 9%, 4.7 percentage points lower than the second quarter of 2017. On the operational front, Copa earnings delivered an on-time performance of 89.9% and a completion factor of 99.8%, again, amongst the best in the world.

Turning now to the rest of 2018. Bookings continue to come in relatively strong in most of the network, however, yield softness, particularly in Brazil and Argentina, is preventing us from achieving the unit revenue growth needed to offset the addition of fuel expense. As such, we're updating our guidance for the year to reflect lower unit revenues and a higher fuel expense.

We're also moderating our capacity growth by being even more aggressive in our low-season cancellations and making capacity adjustments in some of the most affected markets. As always, Jose will share all the details on the updated guidance and assumptions for the rest of the year.

Regarding Brazil and Argentina, during the second quarter, these 2 markets faced year-over-year currency devaluations of 15% and 43%, respectively. And even though there has been some moderation by the industry, international capacity in both markets remains higher than in 2017.

We have also been adding new destinations in this country. And while this has been planned for a long time and will most likely end up being great additions to the network, the timing is not optimal. All these factors make for an adverse revenue environment, which will also be reflected in the third quarter results.

We have seen in the past how higher oil prices benefit the Latin American economy and eventually lead to a better yield environment in the region. But we're not sitting idly waiting for that to happen. As you have seen in our results, our unit costs are as low as ever, and we will continue looking for efficiencies and saving opportunities. Furthermore, during the next few years, as the MAX aircraft becomes an important portion of our fleet, we should start seeing additional benefits to our cost structure, especially if we remain in a high fuel price environment.

We continue to make progress in our ancillary revenue and loyalty program efforts, including the selling of miles, upgrade, seat assignment and second bag fees in selected markets. We also have technology initiatives in the pipeline that we expect will enhance and accelerate our ancillary revenue performance.

In summary, we continue working to strengthen our business model and further our ability to produce premium margins regardless of where the fuel price might be.

Turning now to our fleet. We already received our last 2 737-800, 1 in January and 1 in April, and have returned 1 in Embraer-190 upon its lease expiration in March. In the second half of the year, we expect to receive 5 737 MAX 9s and end the year with a consolidated fleet of 106 aircraft. We're looking forward to the arrival of our first MAX 9 later this month, which will deliver both revenue opportunities and cost efficiency.

In regards to our network, in July, we started 3 new flights, Fortaleza and Salvador, our eighth and ninth destinations in Brazil, and Bridgetown, Barbados, our 16th destination in the Caribbean. We also announced 2 new destinations for the end of the year, Puerto Vallarta in Mexico and Salta in Argentina, both starting in December. After these additions, Copa will provide service to 80 destinations in 32 countries, in North, Central, South America and the Caribbean, by far the most complete and efficient network for intra-Latin America travel.

As a testament to our customer loyalty and satisfaction, last month, we were once again awarded Best Airline and Best Airline Staff in our region by the Skytrax World Airline Awards. We're incredibly proud over the efforts that our more than 9,000 coworkers put in day after day to place us among the best airlines in the world.

Finally, given the significant interest from the investor community, we are confirming today that we have been actively participating in discussions with United and Avianca about the possibility of forming a joint business agreement that would cover our combined networks between the U.S. and Latin America. The details are still being discussed and have not being finalized. So we don't have a specific announcement to make. If and when we complete an agreement, we will provide much more details. Until then, we don't expect to share any further information.

To summarize, we expect lower unit revenues for the year, especially in the third quarter, based mostly on yield softness in Brazil and Argentina. We're moderating our growth to accommodate the softer market conditions. Our team continues to deliver world-class operational results, including one of the world's highest on-time performance.

We continue delivering efficiencies and savings, which have further lowered our industry-leading unit cost. We also continue focusing on revenue opportunities, including ancillary initiatives that are aimed at strengthening our results.

Lastly, despite the current challenges, which we believe to be temporary, we're as confident as ever in our business model and our financial strength. We have the most complete network for travel within the America, an extremely flexible fleet plan, the lowest unit cost, a very strong liquidity position with low leverage and a highly committed team, making us the best positioned to consistently deliver industry-leading results.

Now I'll turn it over to Jose, who will go over our financial results in more detail.

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Jose Montero, Copa Holdings, S.A. - CFO [4]

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Thank you, Pedro. Good morning, everyone, and thanks for joining us. Let me begin by joining Pedro in congratulating our entire team for all their achievements through what was a challenging quarter.

During the second quarter, we grew capacity by 11.2% year-over-year, while revenue passenger miles increased 13% year-over-year, which resulted in a consolidated load factor of 83%, a 1.3 percentage point increase versus Q2 2017.

However, passenger yields came in 2.2% below last year. This year-over-year decline was mostly driven by the weakness in the Brazilian real and the Argentine peso as well as the cancellation of our flights to Venezuela during most of the quarter.

During Q2 2017, our RASM was $0.099, and in Q2 2018, it came in at $0.098. Consolidated revenues increased 10.5% year-over-year to over $634 million.

On the expense side, our second quarter operating expenses increased 16.6% year-over-year on the 11.2% capacity growth, which resulted in our cost per available seat mile increasing 4.8% to $0.09, specifically as a function of higher jet fuel prices.

For the quarter, our effective all-in fuel price averaged $2.35 per gallon, an increase of almost 33% versus the $1.77 per gallon that we averaged in Q2 2017. Our total fuel expense for the quarter was $61.6 million above Q2 2017, of which $47.4 million are related to the fuel price increase.

However, we were able to offset some of this increase with our continued saving initiatives, specifically our cost per available seat mile, excluding fuel, ex fuel CASM, came in at 5.1% lower year-over-year, coming down from $0.063 in Q2 2017, to $0.06 in Q2 2018.

Consolidated operating earnings for the quarter came in 27% lower at $57.1 million, resulting in an operating margin of 9%, 4.7 percentage points lower than the 13.7% generated in Q2 2017.

Looking at nonoperating income and expense. The second quarter generated a net nonoperating income of $162,000. In terms of net results, net earnings for the quarter came in at $49.9 million or earnings per share of $1.18, 15% lower than the earnings per share reported in Q2 2017.

Turning to the balance sheet. We closed the quarter with a very strong financial position. Assets totaled $4.4 billion, owner's equity totaled $2.2 billion, debt plus capitalized leases totaled approximately $2 billion and our adjusted net debt-to-EBITDA ratio came in at a very strong 1.3x, by far the lowest in our peer group and one of the best in the industry.

We closed the quarter with approximately $1.2 billion in debt, more than 60% of which is fixed, with a blended rate, including fixed and floating rate debt, of approximately 3.3%.

In regards to cash, short- and long-term investments, we closed the quarter with approximately $1 billion. Our cash balance at the end of the quarter represents approximately 38% of last 12 months revenues.

In terms of fleet, as we mentioned during our last earnings call, we took delivery of our last Boeing 737-800 during Q2 2018, ending the quarter with 101 aircraft, 82 Boeing 737s and 19 Embraer-190s.

For the rest of 2018, we expect to receive our first Boeing 737 MAX 9 later in the month of August, followed by 4 more MAX 9 deliveries during the latter part of the year. We expect to end the year with a total of 106 aircraft. It is important to note that we have already secured the financing for all the aircraft we will take delivery of in 2018.

Finally, I'm pleased to announce that our Board of Directors has ratified the third quarterly dividend of $0.87 per share to be paid on September 14 to all shareholders of record as of August 31.

So to recap, the second quarter performance was affected by the weakness in some of the currencies in the region as well as the increase in the price of jet fuel. During the month of April, we also faced the suspension of our flights to and from Venezuela. However, we continue to deliver industry-leading unit cost, and we continue to pursuing our cost-savings initiatives. Our network continues being the most convenient for travel within the Americas with world-class operational indicators. We have one of the strongest balance sheets in the industry, and we continue to return value to our shareholders.

Today, we're also updating our guidance for 2018 based on our operating plan and expectations for the year. We're lowering our capacity growth in terms of ASMs to approximately 8%, driven by the capacity adjustments we are making during the second half of the year. And given the continued softness in the yield environment, which we are seeing into the third quarter, mainly driven by the weakness in currencies in Brazil and Argentina as well as the current expectation for fuel prices, we now expect our operating margin to be in the range of 14% to 16%.

Our 2018 full year guidance is based on these following assumptions: load factor of approximately 84%; RASM of approximately $0.107; CASM ex fuel of approximately $0.062; and higher effective fuel price per gallon, including into-plane, of approximately $2.30.

Thank you. And with that, we'll open the call to some questions.

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Questions and Answers

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Operator [1]

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(Operator Instructions) Our first question comes from the line of Duane Pfennigwerth with Evercore ISI.

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Raymond William Wong, Evercore ISI Institutional Equities, Research Division - Analyst [2]

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This is actually Ray on for Duane. Earlier, you mentioned lower unit revenues, especially in 3Q. Should we expect a larger year-over-year decline than 2Q's 0.6%? Or could we expect some kind of modest sequential year-over-year improvement?

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Jose Montero, Copa Holdings, S.A. - CFO [3]

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I think for the third quarter what we're seeing is a decline, I think, I want to say in the low single digits for the third quarter, mostly based on yields. And so it's basically they're -- actually, yes, it's in the very, very low single-digit decline in -- for the third quarter. And then for the fourth quarter, we are seeing -- again, it's too early to tell, but it's more flattish on a year-over-year basis.

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Raymond William Wong, Evercore ISI Institutional Equities, Research Division - Analyst [4]

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Okay. Great. That's helpful. And how much of the lower RASM guide do you attribute to competitive capacity? And what level do you see from 3Q to 2Q? And if you have it, can you break that out between Argentina and Brazil?

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Jose Montero, Copa Holdings, S.A. - CFO [5]

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Yes. I think that the majority of the RASM trend that we're seeing is related to the weakness in Argentina and Brazil. So that's basically the big driver that we're seeing. From the standpoint of competitive moves, there are some movements in certain parts of the network. There are some movement into the Caribbean and between kind of the northern parts in South America to Central America. But that's less significant, I think, than the actual weakness in the currencies in Brazil and Argentina, which is the main driver for the RASM guide that we have.

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Pedro Heilbron, Copa Holdings, S.A. - CEO & Director [6]

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But I should add -- it's Pedro here, that seats from our earnings out of Argentina and Brazil for the first half of the year were in the mid- to high teens. And the second half of the year, we see them in the mid-single digits. So the capacity growth year-over-year will be much lower in the second half of the year than what we've experienced so far.

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Operator [7]

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Our next question comes from the line of Michael Linenberg with Deutsche Bank.

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Unidentified Analyst, [8]

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This is Chris speaking for Mike. I just wanted to ask a question about the change in the capacity growth forecast, down from 9% to 8% this year. Where are you seeing some of those reductions in new capacities? Is that into Brazil and Argentina? I know you mentioned you are still opening new routes and markets into those areas. So I just wanted to get an understanding of where some of those shifts are happening.

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Pedro Heilbron, Copa Holdings, S.A. - CEO & Director [9]

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Right, so this is Pedro here. It's going to be mostly low-season reductions. So starting in September all the way through November, end of November, low-seasonal reductions, number one. And we are adjusting capacity a little bit more aggressively, mostly in Brazil, reducing frequencies in multiple-frequency destinations more than anything.

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Unidentified Analyst, [10]

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Understood. And then how are you seeing some of the -- with respect to the revenue environment, what are the trends you're seeing into Brazil and Argentina this quarter with respect to some of the recovery in demand, if you're seeing that? Is that more leisure (inaudible) driven? Is that business-driven? How should we think about that?

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Jose Montero, Copa Holdings, S.A. - CFO [11]

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I'd say it's a little bit of both from the standpoint of the third quarter. What we're seeing so far is there is a year-over-year drop in, I want to say, in the low teens in both markets. Now having said that, in the case of Brazil, I think that the drop in RASM is mostly driven by the macro environment. And even though there's a significant drop in the currency in Argentina, there is also, I think, a bigger set of seats available in Argentina as well. So that's kind of how we're seeing it into the third quarter. It's in the low, low teens for both markets.

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Pedro Heilbron, Copa Holdings, S.A. - CEO & Director [12]

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Right. And I should add then in the case of Argentina, we've grown our own capacity in ASMs over 40% this year. So in a way, we're partly at fault, but that coincided with the currency devaluation. We were not expecting that. But long term, those are important strategic additions. And the market is still a healthy market. So it was just kind of a perfect storm that we grew a lot this year. It had been like 8 years since we were able to get additional route rights. It took us a long time. So we got them now. We grew a lot of capacity. And then the currency devaluation hit. But medium to long term, those are all, I think, great, great additions. And we are not regretting anything. In the case of Brazil, we've grown much less this year. We added most of the Brazilian capacity we had cut before. We added that last year. But other airlines have added much more capacity this year. So it's -- that coincide with a weakening currency, which has, however, stabilized and even strengthened a little bit. So even though the third quarter, in terms of unit revenues in Brazil, at least for us doesn't look great, we are expecting it to get much better for the fourth quarter.

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Operator [13]

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Our next question comes from the line of Hunter Keay with Wolfe Research.

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Hunter Kent Keay, Wolfe Research, LLC - MD and Senior Analyst of Airlines, Aerospace & Defense [14]

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How much of the better CASM ex-guidance is FX-driven versus some of those cost-reduction initiatives that you referenced?

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Jose Montero, Copa Holdings, S.A. - CFO [15]

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Yes. Hunter, this is Jose here. I think that the majority of the CASM guide is -- or the CASM improvement in the performance that we had in the quarter was savings, and there's some timing involved as well. I'd say that most of our costs are actually in U.S. dollars. The vast majority of our costs are in U.S. dollars. So it is really both -- in the case of the second quarter, there is some timing in there. But in terms of full year, there is a lot of savings initiatives that we're being -- doing in terms of contract renegotiations, distribution initiatives, maintenance, et cetera. So there's quite a bit in there that we've been focusing on over the last couple of years.

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Pedro Heilbron, Copa Holdings, S.A. - CEO & Director [16]

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Hunter, I'll say it in other words, there's no FX advantage, no FX benefit in those numbers.

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Hunter Kent Keay, Wolfe Research, LLC - MD and Senior Analyst of Airlines, Aerospace & Defense [17]

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So the $0.063 to $0.062, that's core, that's pure, that's repeatable, there's is no FX around those figures.

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Jose Montero, Copa Holdings, S.A. - CFO [18]

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Correct.

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Pedro Heilbron, Copa Holdings, S.A. - CEO & Director [19]

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Yes. That is correct.

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Hunter Kent Keay, Wolfe Research, LLC - MD and Senior Analyst of Airlines, Aerospace & Defense [20]

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Okay. Good. And as I think about some of the commentary you guys have made before on 2019 being up high single digits or maybe even low double digits, I know it's early, but as you think about the capacity cut you just made in the back half, is it fair to assume that low double digits is probably off the table for '19? And we should think about a maybe mid- to high single-digit growth rate?

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Jose Montero, Copa Holdings, S.A. - CFO [21]

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Yes.

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Pedro Heilbron, Copa Holdings, S.A. - CEO & Director [22]

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That's a fair assessment.

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Operator [23]

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Our next question comes from the line of Helane Becker with Cowen.

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Conor T. Cunningham, Cowen and Company, LLC, Research Division - Associate [24]

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It's actually Conor Cunningham in for Helane. And just a little bit more on the expected improvement in -- from -- in 4Q from 3Q. Is your assumption that the yield environment kind of flattens out after the Brazilian election? Or is it just strictly the capacity adjustments that you're making that gives you confidence that you're going to see sequential improvement?

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Jose Montero, Copa Holdings, S.A. - CFO [25]

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Yes, Conor. There are a couple of items there. Of course, we are tempering down the ASMs that we're putting out into the market, and especially, that's going to be the case in the fourth quarter. But also what we're seeing is that -- for now, we're not seeing any major expectations for major changes in currencies and think that -- given that, we are seeing that the yield environment should flatten out as well for the fourth quarter as well. So it's a little bit of both, which is involved in there.

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Conor T. Cunningham, Cowen and Company, LLC, Research Division - Associate [26]

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Okay. And then just a little bit on the rest of the network. So just excluding Brazil and Argentina, is it fair to assume that the rest of the market is actually -- the rest of your network is actually performing quite well? And there is nothing that -- there is nothing bleeding from Argentina and Brazil into those markets at all at this point?

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Pedro Heilbron, Copa Holdings, S.A. - CEO & Director [27]

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No. Our network is vast. I mean, it's going to be by the end of the year, 80 destinations in 32 countries. So if we think about the rest, they're all net -- it's all net-net positive. And some might be -- maybe slightly weaker than others, but the majority is doing very well.

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Conor T. Cunningham, Cowen and Company, LLC, Research Division - Associate [28]

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Okay. And then just to follow up on the 2019 capacity comment, what's your expectation around where you're going to end in terms of fleet count? And has that changed given the items in Brazil and Argentina? Like are you expecting to return more aircraft than you did before? Or maybe just any comments there, that would be great.

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Jose Montero, Copa Holdings, S.A. - CFO [29]

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Yes. I think that our plan calls for -- again, personally, I have to say that we have a very flexible fleet plan. So we still have some embedded flexibility into the 2019 capacity figure. But for now, our plan calls for a growth of around 4 airplanes for next year. We have flexibility. We have lease expirations next year, so.

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Operator [30]

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Our next question comes from the line of Savi Syth with Raymond James.

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Savanthi Nipunika Syth, Raymond James & Associates, Inc., Research Division - Airlines Analyst [31]

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I just wanted to follow up on a couple of questions to make sure I understand. The -- so Brazil and Argentina kind of both RASM-ed down, kind of low teens in the third quarter, is that what you were saying?

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Jose Montero, Copa Holdings, S.A. - CFO [32]

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Yes.

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Savanthi Nipunika Syth, Raymond James & Associates, Inc., Research Division - Airlines Analyst [33]

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So if I look at that, and I think they're about 25% of your market, does that mean the rest of your network is then stable? Is the -- if you're kind of expecting low single digit-type declines for the third quarter than the rest of the market, so maybe flat to slightly up, is that fair?

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Jose Montero, Copa Holdings, S.A. - CFO [34]

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That is a fair assessment, Savi.

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Savanthi Nipunika Syth, Raymond James & Associates, Inc., Research Division - Airlines Analyst [35]

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Okay. Great. And then just on the kind of Venezuela items, was that all in -- the $15 million impact, is that all revenue in 2Q that we can kind of expect to get reversed next year?

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Jose Montero, Copa Holdings, S.A. - CFO [36]

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Yes. There's actually -- the revenue figure was a little higher. There is also some cost savings associated with not operating the flights. But -- so yes, the $15 million figure is a P&L figure more than anything -- an impact to earnings.

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Savanthi Nipunika Syth, Raymond James & Associates, Inc., Research Division - Airlines Analyst [37]

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Okay. Great. And two -- my last question was one. I wonder if you can elaborate on some of the ancillary revenue initiative that you'd mentioned briefly that -- to kind of drive higher ancillary? And then also just a quick update on Wingo?

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Pedro Heilbron, Copa Holdings, S.A. - CEO & Director [38]

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Okay. So yes. So we've implemented a number of ancillary initiatives without having -- or without waiting for the right technology. The enhancements to our CSS systems are 1 year delayed. We said we're going to have them by the end of 2017. And we're going to now have them by the end of this year, by October of this year. And now we're in the final stretch. So we're very confident that all the enhancements to our CSS are going to be in place by October this year, but that's a year later. And we couldn't wait so long. So we have implemented ancillary -- or an initiative, such as selling premium seats, such as second bag charges in certain markets and other initiatives. Those were done, again, without all the technology enhancements. We feel that by next year, with our new systems -- or enhanced systems, we're going to be able to perform much better, maybe even increase by 50% or more what we're doing. In previous calls and Investor Day, we had said that by the end of 2018, adding 2017 and 2018 together, we would be at $30 million in ancillary revenues. And I will say, we're going to be there by the end of this year. And there is a potential to increase that number, again, by 50% or more percent, the run rate next year with the technology enhancements. In terms of Wingo, to answer your Wingo question, we're very happy with Wingo. Wingo -- Wingo's first objectives was to turn a money-losing network out of Columbia into a much better network. And what I should say that even though we do not split Wingo numbers, we think that we're right on track to deliver either breakeven or actually maybe positive numbers, a positive contribution for Wingo in 2018.

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Operator [39]

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Our next question comes from the line of Dan McKenzie with Buckingham Research.

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Daniel J. Mckenzie, The Buckingham Research Group Incorporated - Research Analyst [40]

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A few questions here. The first one is really housekeeping. I'm just wondering to what extent the trucker's strike in Brazil or the World Cup impacted revenue in the second quarter?

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Pedro Heilbron, Copa Holdings, S.A. - CEO & Director [41]

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Yes. So the World Cup, it's probably going to affect mostly third quarter. And we're pretty sure that there was an impact, but like impossible, impossible to measure. So we will never really know what was the impact. But there will be an impact in the third quarter due to all those people that spent their money in Russia and not in the Caribbean or the U.S., including many Panamanians I should say. So -- but it's very difficult to measure. And in terms of the trucker's strike, it did lead to a number of cancellations. But obviously, the impact was much less than to our carrier flying domestically in Brazil. So I will not say that it was significant.

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Daniel J. Mckenzie, The Buckingham Research Group Incorporated - Research Analyst [42]

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I see. Okay. And just -- not to kick a dead horse here, but a couple of the prior -- just following up with a couple of the prior questions. Just striping out Brazil and Argentina, I'm just wondering if you could give more clarity around what the operating margin story would look like for this year. So the rest of the network trending at 16% to 18% margin. So then it's just these 2 countries that bring us down? Or just -- or maybe if you could just provide a little bit more perspective along those lines. And maybe how does the weakness break out between business and leisure travel, for example? And simply just kind of talk about more -- the impact more to the core business and kind of where you're seeing that weakness specifically.

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Pedro Heilbron, Copa Holdings, S.A. - CEO & Director [43]

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Right. Well, we never break down operating revenues by region or country. But the yield weakness and the yield softness, it's -- year-over-year, of course. Comparing year-over-year, it's in Brazil and Argentina. That doesn't mean that the operating margins in those places are driving the whole number much lower. This is all a year-over-year comparison. So the weakness year-over-year in yield is in those 2 markets. In the other markets, we're either flat or up in terms of unit revenue when we add them altogether. So I would say that there are no other markets or regions that are a worry to us right now. And obviously, the big issue is that we are not being able to cover for the increased fuel price. If fuel was at the same point where it was 12 months ago, we would be doing extremely well in terms of operating margin. So the disconnect is that we're not being able right now to price in the fuel increase. Only in the second quarter, we paid over $47 million only in price in additional fuel price over a year ago.

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Daniel J. Mckenzie, The Buckingham Research Group Incorporated - Research Analyst [44]

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Understood. And then I guess, if you could maybe just comment a little bit about the breakup between business and leisure travel. Is it the falloff in leisure travel from Brazil and Argentina? Or is it -- have you seen a real downtick in the corporate business? And I guess, the reason I'm kind of getting that, that is it seems like the corporate business seems intact from what we're hearing from other carriers this morning, but I'm just wondering maybe you could provide a little bit more granularity around that side of the business?

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Jose Montero, Copa Holdings, S.A. - CFO [45]

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We haven't really seen a significant change in the makeup. As a matter of fact, the traffic is still there as you see from our low-factor figures. So it's mostly a yield issue based on the currencies.

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Operator [46]

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Our next question comes from the line of Joseph DeNardi with Stifel.

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Joseph William DeNardi, Stifel, Nicolaus & Company, Incorporated, Research Division - MD & Airline Analyst [47]

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I'm going to try and ask the second half RASM question like the 37th different way. If you get to flat RASM in the back half of the year, that would represent a pretty big divergence between year-over-year RASM and FX, which you guys haven't really seen in over the past few years. So is there anything that we should keep in mind that would support that type of divergence? Or do you really need to see an improvement in FX to get back to positive in fourth quarter?

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Pedro Heilbron, Copa Holdings, S.A. - CEO & Director [48]

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Right. So we have seen a slight improvement lately in FX. And we're expecting FX to be stable for the rest of the year. I would say that kind of embedded in our forecast is that FX is going to be stable for the rest of the year. And what we have to keep in mind is that, usually, when fuel prices are so high, currencies in Latin America tend to strengthen. That hasn't happened this year. But we could expect currencies to be more stable than where they'd been in the last few months.

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Joseph William DeNardi, Stifel, Nicolaus & Company, Incorporated, Research Division - MD & Airline Analyst [49]

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Okay. And then a couple of years ago, at the Investor Day you guys did down there, you quantified what the EBIT contribution you were expecting or the margin contribution you were expecting from your loyalty program. You just talked about kind of the ancillary contribution that you're seeing. What is the loyalty program contributing to EBIT this year? And then how does that start to ramp up a little bit more next year?

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Pedro Heilbron, Copa Holdings, S.A. - CEO & Director [50]

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Okay. So now that you've mentioned the Investor Day conference a few years ago, so we're going to have our next one on September 20 in New York City. And I'm sure there's going to be a lot of interesting information with -- we will have all of our top VPs there, especially commercial, sharing all of this. But I'll let Jose add.

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Jose Montero, Copa Holdings, S.A. - CFO [51]

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Well, in terms -- Joe, in terms of the loyalty question, the contribution that we're seeing right now is at around 1 percentage point to even from the loyalty program. And so yes, there is some room as a point of continued growing for that to accrete over the next couple of years.

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Operator [52]

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Our last question comes from the line of Marcos Barreto with Citi.

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Marcos Barreto Guerrero, Citigroup Inc, Research Division - Research Analyst [53]

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First of all, do you see any potential anti-trust push back from the alliance that you've mentioned earlier, specifically with the South American counterpart?

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Pedro Heilbron, Copa Holdings, S.A. - CEO & Director [54]

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The JV?

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Jose Montero, Copa Holdings, S.A. - CFO [55]

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Yes.

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Pedro Heilbron, Copa Holdings, S.A. - CEO & Director [56]

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Well, as we said in the opening remarks, we are not going to share more information on that. There are still -- the agreement has not been finalized yet. Once it's finalized, we will have to go through all the legal hurdles that an agreement like this has to go through.

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Jose Montero, Copa Holdings, S.A. - CFO [57]

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In the different countries, yes.

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Pedro Heilbron, Copa Holdings, S.A. - CEO & Director [58]

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In the different countries, so I would rather not speculate right now.

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Marcos Barreto Guerrero, Citigroup Inc, Research Division - Research Analyst [59]

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Okay. Second, has the guidance adjustment led to -- led you to rethink your strategy on synthetic fuel hedging?

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Jose Montero, Copa Holdings, S.A. - CFO [60]

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No. Actually, I think on the long term, I think that our current strategy, which is not hedging, is the right strategy. So we'll -- we're going to -- we have no plans of change it.

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Marcos Barreto Guerrero, Citigroup Inc, Research Division - Research Analyst [61]

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Okay. And last, looking at the strong operational cash flow, was there some strategic adjustments in your working capital strategy?

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Jose Montero, Copa Holdings, S.A. - CFO [62]

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No. No real -- from the working capital strategy, no real strategic change. But again, from the overall perspective of cash flow and our cash position, the board has always been about returning value to the shareholders, be it a dividend or a buyback program. So that something that's certainly is something that the company has been doing actively over the last many years.

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Operator [63]

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And that concludes the question-and-answer session. I would now like to turn the call back to Pedro Heilbron for any further remarks.

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Pedro Heilbron, Copa Holdings, S.A. - CEO & Director [64]

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Okay. Thank you, all. This concludes our earnings call. I would like to take this opportunity, as I mentioned a minute ago, to announce that we'll have our 2018 Investor Day on September 20 in New York City. And you should be getting an invitation and all the details in the next couple of weeks. So thank you for being with us in this call. And as always, thank you for your continued support. Have a great day.

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Operator [65]

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Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for participating. That concludes the presentation. You may all disconnect. Everyone, have a great day.