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SSP losses widen, but UK, North America trade better since March

By Frank Prenesti

Date: Wednesday 09 Jun 2021

SSP losses widen, but UK, North America trade better since March

(Sharecast News) - Train station and airport food cafe operator SSP Group reported wider interim losses as Covid travel restrictions closed its outlets, but added trading had improved in the UK and North America since the end of March.
The company, which runs outlets such as Upper Crust and Ritazza in 35 countries, on Wednesday posted a pre-tax loss of £299.7m, compared with a £34m loss a year ago as the pandemic started to hit global travel. Revenue plunged 78.8% to £256.7m.

Underlying pre-tax losses were £182m for the six months to March 31, compared with a loss of £10.7m a year earlier.

SSP said UK and North America trade had improved slightly, driven by the gradual easing of lockdown restrictions in the, coupled with improving passenger numbers, particularly in North America, assisted by the successful roll-out of the vaccination programmes.

"However, we have seen the impact of renewed travel restrictions in our Rest of the World division, most notably in India and Thailand. Currently, sales are down approximately 70% against 2019 and for the third quarter as a whole, we expect them to be down approximately 75% against 2019."

The company said it had opened a further 250 units the end of March, taking the total 1,150 currently. If current trends continued SSP expected to have 1,200-1,500 units open over the summer, in line with the recovery in demand.

Net debt at the year was £2bn with a monthly cash burn of around £23m. SSP raised £451m vis a rights issue in April, giving it liquidity of £853mln.

AJ Bell investment director Russ Mould said SSP had been especially hard hit by its inability to offer alternatives given the locations of its outlets.

"it's not as if the company can lean on a takeaway service or pick up passing trade from elsewhere - after all, nobody wonders by the Gatwick Airport terminal when they're taking a daily stroll," he said.

"Inevitably its first half results are about as grim as could be, however the question now is to what extent and how quickly its pool of prospective customers will come back. This is entirely out of SSP's control, depending as it does on the course of the pandemic and the response of global governments."

"Like the travel operators and airlines, SSP would have been hoping for a more normal summer to really get the turnaround in its fortunes underway but uncertainty prevails. At least a boom in staycations and uptick in people travelling by rail in the UK and on domestic flights in the US could provide some comfort."

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