COVID-19: Eurostar secures £250m rescue package from shareholders and banks

Cross-Channel train operator Eurostar has secured a refinancing from its shareholders and banks worth £250m as it bids to build a recovery from the coronavirus crisis.

The company, which is 55% owned by French state rail company SNCF with the balance held by two private consortia, said the deal was “key” to securing its immediate future by allowing it to increase the frequency of services.

Demand took a hammering as the COVID-19 pandemic gathered speed last year.

It has been operating just one daily train in each direction between London and Paris, and London and Amsterdam via Brussels, over the course of this year.

The number of services is set to be slowly increased from next week, in anticipation of an easing of lockdown rules Europe-wide.

However, France, Belgium and the Netherlands are yet to make it on to the UK’s green list.

Before the public health crisis materialised, Eurostar’s fleet of 27 trains ran more than 55 daily services.

The UK-headquartered company warned late last year that it was facing a “fight for survival” as passenger numbers had slumped by up to 95% – and it had called on the UK government to contribute to a bailout, complaining that the crisis facing aviation had received all the attention.

However, the UK taxpayer sold its 40% stake in 2015 and while it has helped in terms of furlough aid to Eurostar, the government was not part of the rescue package announced on Tuesday.

Eurostar said it consisted of £150m of loans guaranteed by its shareholders, £50m in the form of new shares and a restructuring of £50m in existing loans.

Chief executive Jacques Damas said: “Everyone at Eurostar is encouraged by this strong show of support from our shareholders and banks which will allow us to continue to provide this important service for passengers.

“The refinancing agreement is the key factor enabling us to increase our services as the situation with the pandemic starts to improve.

“Eurostar will continue to work closely with governments to move towards a safe easing of travel restrictions and streamlining of border processes to allow passengers to travel safely and seamlessly.

The company said that the number of trains on the London-Paris route would rise to two daily return services from 27 May 27, with a third added from the end of June.

Source: Read Full Article