Upper Crust owner’s £300m loss as sales slowly recover

Transport catering group SSP admitted revenues for the six months to the end of March had crashed. They were down 78.9 per cent to £256.7million, which in turn sent its pre-tax losses widening, from £34.3million to £299.7million. The group does not expect business to return to pre-pandemic levels until 2024. The firm has been hammered by the collapse in rail commuter numbers and international air travel being halted by Covid-19.

SSP also operates Yo! Sushi, Starbucks, Burger King and Jamie Oliver franchises and other restaurants in airports around the world.

Chief executive Simon Smith said that given the “very challenging” conditions it faces, SSP had put in a resilient performance.

He added that passenger numbers and demand were starting to return in the UK and US thanks to the vaccine rollout.

Sales during the first week of June improved, to down 70 per cent on 2019 levels. Additionally, SSP’s balance sheet is stronger since the first half after raising £475million from investors in April.

Smith said: “The recovery in domestic and leisure travel has now begun in a number of our territories, and our teams are busy reopening units in line with
passenger demand.”

However, Hargreaves Lansdown senior investment and markets analyst Susannah Streeter said that SSP’s journey back to health “looks arduous”, given the effect that the global coronavirus outbreak has had on how people live their lives.

She said: “The working from home trend shows no sign of fully reversing and the captive commuter market is at risk of evaporating long term.

“With footfall across rail and airnetworks likely to stay subdued for much longer, and material uncertainty hanging over the group, auditors have cast doubt on its ability to continue as a going concern.”

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