National Express 2020 results reveal full COVID impact

National Express coach at Birmingham Coach Station
National Express had a strong pre-pandemic performance in 2020

After beginning the year with a 17% increase in revenue pre-pandemic, operator sees £381.4m in losses

National Express Group’s full year results for 2020 reveal that the company had been on course for a strong year before the pandemic hit, with a 17% uptick in revenue in January and February. Revenues for the whole year were down 28.7% at £1.96bn, compared to £2.74bn in 2019.

The operator made a £381.4m statutory operating loss in 2020, compared to £242.3m the previous year, and representing a 57.9p loss per share.

While UK bus passenger numbers for the year were down 47%, the group’s UK coach division was the worst affected, with a decrease of 71%. Revenue from National Express UK operations stood at £388.2m (2019: £599.7m), with a statutory operating loss of £99.4m (2019: £84.1m profit).

Ignacio Garat, who was appointed Group CEO in November 2020, remained positive about the performance of the business through such challenging times.

He said: “I have been impressed by the overall stability and resilience of the business in the face of unprecedented challenge. Strong customer relationships have enabled revenue to perform well ahead of the significant reductions in patronage driven by travel restrictions, and disciplined cost management has limited the extent to which this revenue decline has flowed to profit and cash.

“However, the situation we find ourselves in is not one that we can ultimately control and the timing of full recovery remains uncertain as we are still subject to lockdowns and related restrictions in every market we operate in. I believe that the trajectory is improving, with the fourth quarter of 2020 our strongest of the year and the global vaccination roll-out accelerating. We have seen this momentum continuing into 2021

“It is clear that 2021 will represent a ‘transition year’ to a post-pandemic future and much will depend on the effectiveness of mass vaccination programmes to enable travel restrictions to be lifted.”