Due to the coronavirus epidemic, SNCF lost 3 billion euros in 2020, but its drastic savings plan allowed it to partly limit the bleeding, the group announced on Wednesday.
In 2019, weighed down by the strike against the pension reform in December and unfavorable accounting effects, the group had already lost 801 million euros.
High speed rail weighed down by the crisis
In 2020, turnover fell 14.6% to 29.975 billion, penalized by the effects of the health crisis (-6.8 billion) and to a lesser extent by the end of the strike in January (-400 million ). “We have the benefit of the diversification of our activities”, noted the CEO Jean-Pierre Farandou, judging in front of journalists this figure “not too bad” given the circumstances. If Geodis (logistics) resisted with a turnover up 4.5%, the other components of the public group saw their revenues melt: -28% for SNCF Voyageurs (TGV, TER and Paris suburbs), -8 % for Keolis (public transport), -12% for freight, -9% for SNCF Réseau and -4% for stations.
High-speed rail, from which SNCF usually derives its profits, has been particularly battered by the health crisis, with a 48% drop in traffic, and – because of the “low prices” granted to win back the hearts of travelers – a decline higher turnover of 54%, to 3.7 billion euros. The loss of turnover for TGV is estimated at 4.8 billion. “International mobility is at a standstill and the French market is slowing down,” lamented management in a statement. The contracted activities, regional trains and Keolis, suffered less.
A full recovery in 2022
The “operating margin” remained positive at the group level thanks to the effects of a drastic program of reduction of expenses initiated at the end of winter, noted the management. “We have combed all of our expenses and sought to optimize the use of our cash”, explained CFO Laurent Trevisani.
“We have given up on projects,” he added, specifying that the management had “sanctuarized” those relating to the safety and preservation of industrial facilities. SNCF also continued its projects participating in its “rebound policy” for the post-crisis period, according to him. SNCF, however, had to increase its debt again, which the State had just reduced by 25 billion on January 1. This amounted to 38.1 billion at December 31. Management is now counting on a “gradual resumption of activity (…) from the fall, with full effect in 2022”, according to Laurent Trevisani.