July 23, 2020 / 5:31 AM / 19 days ago

CORRECTED-Eurotunnel operator Getlink cuts outlook as lockdowns hit traffic

(Clarifies in paragraph 5 Getlink serves Eurostar, which operates the trains)

July 23 (Reuters) - Channel Tunnel group Getlink on Thursday scrapped its mid-term objectives and slashed its 2020 outlook after coronavirus lockdowns hit truck and passenger travel in the first half of the year.

Provided lockdowns are not reintroduced, Getlink now forecasts earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) of 350 million euros ($405.3 million) for 2020, down from a previous guidance of 580 million which it withdrew in April.

“We don’t want a second peak, but we are prepared to face one better than we did the first,” chairman Jacques Gounon told reporters, noting precautionary measures such as passengers staying inside their cars during the shuttle.

Gounon said the group did not plan to cut investments in the second half of the year, which it considers important to keep the tunnel running, delivering passengers and freight across the English Channel.

The group, which serves high-speed trains between London and mainland Europe operated by Eurostar, as well as runs shuttles carrying passenger cars, coaches and freight trucks, also scrapped its 2022 targets, namely an EBITDA above 735 million euros and annual 0.05 euro dividend increase.

For the first six months of 2020, Getlink’s EBITDA fell 52% to 123 million euros, with revenues down 29%.

The number of passengers crossing the Channel by Eurostar fell by 98% between April and June, after successive border closures, lockdowns and quarantine measures.

Getlink estimates that Eurostar traffic made up over 76% of London-Paris route market share last year.

Gounon added that the company ended its part-time work policy in France on July 1, which had affected thousands of staff from the start of April, and was in the process of doing so in Britain as well.

Getlink also plans to return to its dividend policy after it scrapped its proposed payout this year, he said.

$1 = 0.8636 euros Reporting by Sarah Morland and Dagmarah Mackos in Gdansk Editing by Tomasz Janowski

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