WASHINGTON — Airports that rely heavily on cargo shipping have been less resilient during both the recession and subsequent recovery than others, according to a new report from Loop Capital Markets.
“The activity an airport specializes in is important for investors when analyzing which airports are most affected by business cycle fluctuations, or industry-specific growth within a state,” the report concluded. “The activity that appeared to be hurt most during the recession was cargo shipping. From 2007 to 2009 cargo shipping had average annual decreases in output generated of 9.3%, compared to a 6.0% decrease in departures and a 3.9% decrease in vacation and business travelers.”
The most striking example offered in the report is Memphis International Airport in Tennessee, a regional FedEx hub rated A2 by Moody’s Investors Service. That airport generated $16.8 million in 2007, the last year of prosperity, but saw that figure shrink to $15.1 million in 2008 and rebound to $15.5 million in 2011.
Both the total shipping and the price per pound fell from 2007 to 2011, the report continues, and the cargo sector continues to decline at about 2.0% annually, the report states.
“One possible conclusion that we can derive from this is very interesting, and logical, for potential investors,” the report said. During the pre-recession years of 2003-2007, “the fastest growing airports specialized in the shipping of cargo. This makes sense as ... many businesses and manufacturers [grew] in conjunction with the economy. These are areas that have not recovered to anywhere near the growth we saw previously causing the airports that have specialized in cargo to be disproportionately hurt during the recovery.”
The report notes that there are other “intangible” factors that appear to have affected how airports have weathered the economic storm, such as the existence of a resilient local manufacturing or business sector. Overall, 15 airports were both stronger during the recession and also during the recovery than average, 10 were weaker during the recession and stronger in the recovery, eight were stronger during the recession but weaker during the recovery, and 16 were weaker than average during both time periods, according to the report.