A good first half of 2023 for France’s SNCF Group
The SNCF Group’s turnover came to 20.7 billion euros in the first half of 2023, marking an increase of 2.2 per cent over 2022. Cash flow is positive, and debt is being reduced. Sales are up thanks, in particular, to SNCF Voyageurs, TGV, and Kéolis, while the group continues to invest in new projects.
The Group’s earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortisation (EBITDA) came to 2.8 billion euros. Excluding the strike, EBITDA would have been 3.2 billion. Net profit remains positive, at 158 million euros compared with 928 million in the first half of 2022. In addition, the Group generated a positive free cash flow of 2.7 billion euros at the end of June 2023.
According to their press release, “SNCF has been able to absorb the major impact of inflation on costs through a proactive commercial policy and the implementation of a performance and productivity plan. Reductions in structural costs, industrial costs, and project costs have contributed to significant gains in competitiveness, amounting to 390 million euro in the first half of 2023, against a target of 650 million for 2023”. Finally, net debt fell to 23.9 billion. According to Axel Bavière, the SNCF group’s director of financial communications, “the group’s economic fundamentals are healthy, which is good news.”
“The French love the train.”
Despite “a period marked by a deteriorating economic and geopolitical situation, ongoing inflation, and social tensions linked to the national pension reform. The French are big fans of the train, and that’s good news,” explains Jean-Pierre Farandou, Chairman, and CEO of the SNCF Group. SNCF Voyageurs has reached historic levels of rail traffic. Daily journeys and high-speed travel have become increasingly popular in France and Europe. The company recorded significant growth in various segments: TGV-Intercités by 10 per cent, TGV Europe (including Eurostar) by 40 per cent, TER by 18 per cent, Transilien by 5 per cent, and Intercités by 2.5 per cent.
All in all, SNCF Voyageurs’ turnover is up by 11.3 per cent, including 21 per cent for the TGV alone, compared with the same period last year, which was still affected by the pandemic. SNCF Voyageurs also signed several agreements with local authorities (Ile-de-France, Occitanie, Nouvelle-Aquitaine) and won two TER tenders in the Hauts-de-France and Pays de la Loire regions, strengthening its presence on conventional markets.
In the public transport sector, KEOLIS confirmed its growth momentum, with a 7.3 per cent increase in business compared with the previous year. The company won the Île-de-France Mobilités tender to operate metro lines 16 and 17 of the Grand Paris Express and has expanded internationally, winning contracts in Sweden, the Netherlands, and the United States.
SNCF Réseau, which is responsible for rail infrastructure, achieved growth in sales of 2.4 per cent at constant exchange rates and consolidation scope compared with the first half of the previous year. However, excluding electricity charges, sales fell by 0.8 per cent, mainly due to a significant drop in train operations in the first quarter as a result of industrial action (-9 per cent).
Free cash flow was positive, even though SNCF spent 4.6 billion euro on investments, including 3 billion euros on the rail network and stations. “Stations are continuing to be modernised to improve accessibility and provide useful and efficient services for passengers,” according to the press release. The investment program for the rail network is also continuing to progress, with 1,500 projects spread across all regions of France.
These projects include the continuation of work on EOLE, which has provided a link between the east and west of the Île-de-France region since June. In addition, the first phase of work on the Lyon-Turin interconnection is now complete. In the Hauts-de-France region, a new Centralised Network Control System is currently being deployed on the 125 kilometres of lines in the Douai railway hub. Finally, signalling has been improved, leading to the reopening of the Angoulême-Saintes-Royan line.
New investments in renewable energies are underway, making the SNCF Group a solar energy producer thanks to its new subsidiary, SNCF Renouvelables, which was launched in July 2023.