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Upper Crust owner’s losses balloon on slow travel recovery

Jun 9, 2021

(Reuters) – Upper Crust owner SSP Group reported first-half loss of 182 million pounds ($257.62 million) on Wednesday, bringing its shortfall over the past 18 months to more than 600 million pounds, as traffic at its airport and railway kiosks were slow.

The London-based snack food group, which operates in 35 countries and raised an extra 450 million pounds from shareholders in April, said first-half revenue slumped 78.9% to 256.7 million pounds for the six months ended March 31.

The company said that while the report of its auditors on its last full-year results was unqualified, it did note that there was “a material uncertainty that may cast significant doubt on the Group’s and its parent company’s ability to continue as a going concern.”

Demand for air and rail travel is expected to increase in the coming months, particularly in the leisure segment, after more than a year in the doldrums as mass vaccination programmes gain pace and countries ease travel restrictions for vaccinated travellers.

SSP, however, expects longer-term impact on business travel by air and commuter travel by rail, as the pandemic changed working practices and patterns. The company said it expects like-for-like revenue to return to “around pre-COVID levels” by 2024.

The company, like all travel and hospitality firms, was among the worst hit by the pandemic through 2020, shutting about 2,500 outlets and furloughing over 22,000 employees across the world at the peak of the crisis. It has already cut 14,000 jobs.

In March, the firm said that conditions had not improved in the first two quarters of the 2020-2021 fiscal year. It also reported a two-year extension to its bank facilities, due to mature in 2022, and waivers of existing borrowing terms.

($1 = 0.7065 pounds)

(Reporting by Vishwadha Chander in Bengaluru, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips)