SNCF CEO Jean-Pierre Farandou confirms the contrasting performances with "bad news on the Travel side but good news on the logistics side." Revenues down 10% from their pre-pandemic first quarter 2019 level rebounded with a 13.5% year-on-year increase to €16.1 billion.
The logistics and freight transport business recorded sustained growth in the first six months of the year, with logistics provider Geodis even doing 20% better than in the first quarter of 2019.
For Jean-Pierre Farandou, it is thanks to this growth that "the loss has been divided by three" compared to the 2.4 billion of the first half of 2020.
On the other hand, the long-distance passenger business, which now represents only 12% of overall activity, has been strongly affected by the health measures.
Over the half-year, TGV ridership remains 50% behind that of 2019 despite a 9.4% increase compared to the same period in 2020.SNCF recorded a modest increase in revenue at 2%, down 57% from its 2019 level.
The "operating margin", an indicator close to the Ebitda (gross operating surplus) from which SNCF usually derives its profits, is negative at €772 million for TGVs.
The management, which estimates the impact of the health crisis at 2.9 billion euros on revenues and 2.6 billion on operating margin, 80% of which concerns high-speed trains, is launching a new savings plan to limit the damage.
Thus, 1.3 billion euros will be released over the year (including 830 million in the first half) added to the 2.5 billion saved last year.
"We do not forget that there is the recovery plan that has done good", with 4.7 billion euros brought to the network, freight and night trains, said the CEO.
However, despite the uncertainties about the evolution of the health crisis, the CEO considers that SNCF no longer needs state aid and confirms its objective set by the 2018 railway reform, of a free cash flow at balance for the whole group in 2022.
The management is also pleased with the good reception of its new fare structure for long-distance passengers in France and set out to win back leisure and business customers.