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18 Mar 2021 | 07:38

National Express swings to loss in 2020 due to pandemic

(Sharecast News) - National Express said on Thursday that it swung to a loss in 2020 as it took a hit from the Covid-19 pandemic.

In the year to 31 December 2020, the bus and coach operator swung to a statutory operating loss of £381.4m from a profit of £242.3m a year earlier, with group revenue down 28.7% to £1.96bn. The group posted a statutory pre-tax loss of £444.7m versus a profit of £187m in 2019.

National Express said that as the first lockdown hit in March, there was an immediate impact in both bus and coach, with passenger numbers dropping dramatically. At the peak of the lockdown, its bus operations saw passenger numbers fall by more than 80%, with 47% of service operating, while in coach, the nationwide travel ban effectively cut demand to zero,.

Although demand came back quickly when restrictions were lifted, it fell just as quickly when they were re-imposed.

For the year as a whole, passenger numbers were down 47% in the bus division and 71% in the core coach operations.

The company said that given the "unprecedented financial implications" of the pandemic, it has decided not to recommend a dividend for the year.

Still, the group said momentum built throughout the second half of the year and it has seen an improving trajectory, with revenue, EBITDA and cash generation at their strongest levels in the fourth quarter of the year.

"With lockdowns and restrictions still in place in many territories, the outlook for the current year and the timing of the recovery remain difficult to predict, but it is encouraging that we continue to win new and retain existing contracts," it said. "Furthermore, when travel restrictions have been lifted, we have seen a rapid recovery in demand."
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