StockMarketWire.com - Convenience store group SSP posted a deeper first-half loss after the pandemic reduced footfall at travel hubs.

Pre-tax losses for the six months through March amounted to £299.7 million, compared to year-on-year losses of £34.3 million, as revenue plunged 79% to £256.7 million.

SSP, which did not declare any dividends, said its medium-term outlook was unchanged, with like-for-like revenues expected to return to around pre-Covid levels by 2024.

Net debt at the end of March was £2.03 billion and included lease liabilities of £1.19 billion, though the company said its balance sheet had been strengthened by an equity raising in April.

SSP said it had seen some improvement in trading since the end of March, driven by the gradual easing of lockdowns in the UK in recent weeks.

That had improvement had coupled with improving passenger numbers, particularly in North America, driven by the successful roll-out of vaccination programmes.

'However, we have seen the impact of renewed travel restrictions in our rest of the world division, most notably in India and Thailand,' it added.

Sales were down about 70% against 2019. For the third quarter as a whole, SSP expected them to fall around 75% against 2019.

'Whilst the short-term outlook remains highly uncertain, we remain positive about a further upturn in both domestic and leisure travel across the remainder of the current financial year,' it said.

'We anticipate that the profit conversion on the lower sales, compared with pre-Covid levels, will continue to be in the region of 25% during the second half of the financial year.'

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