The Jungfrau Railway Group posts losses but positive EBITDA in first half of the year

The Jungfrau Railway Group experienced a difficult first half of 2020. Covid-19 and the asso-ciated economic consequences were reflected in the business results. In the first half of the year, 100,600 visitors travelled to the Jungfraujoch. That is 78.6% less than during the same period in the previous year. The official order to end the winter season early and the closure of the tourist railways for almost three months led to the first half-year loss in the history of Jungfraubahn Holding AG. The loss amounted to CHF 11.5 million (2019: profit of CHF 23.9 million). Despite the severe effects of the coronavirus pandemic, the Jungfrau Railway Group was able to generate a positive EBITDA of CHF 5.9 million. As things stand, the company assumes that, despite a loss, it can expect a positive EBITDA for 2020 as a whole.

In terms of liquidity and equity, the company is solidly positioned. The financing of operations as well as the completion of the V-cableway project. The V-cableway is a once-in-a-century project and will enable the Jungfrau Railway Group to put a new must-see tourist destination on the map from December 2020.

 

VISITOR FREQUENCIES
1.1.-30.6.

2020

2019

Change
in %

Jungfraujoch (arr.)

100,600

470,900

-78.6%

Skier visits 
Jungfrau Ski Region

744,700

904,200

-17.6%

NET TRANSPORT REVENUE

in TCHF

in TCHF

in %

Jungfraujoch – Top of Europe

13,723

50,595

-72.9%

Experience Mountains

3,527

9,325

-62.2%

Winter sports

17,785

19,068

-6.7%

Total transport revenue

35,035

78,988

-55.6%

After the best January in the history of Jungfrau Railway, transport to the Jungfraujoch – Top of Europe began declining in mid-February due to the spread of the coronavirus. Starting on 14 March 2020, Jungfrau Railway, like all of the company's tourist railways, was forced to close down. The Group's business and the entire intercontinental tourism sector completely disappeared from mid-March onwards. The Jungfraujoch – Top of Europe was closed for a long period for the first time since World War I – for 83 days.

Despite the fact that the company implemented initial cost-cutting measures as early as February, it was not possible to avert a loss in the first half of the year. Operating costs were reduced and short-time working was applied for a large portion of the workforce. These measures were and remain essential for securing jobs in the region and getting operations back on track.

With the exception of the two main projects – the V-cableway and the publicly financed renovation of the Lauterbrunnen-Mürren Rail- and Cableway – many investments were postponed. CHF 52 million was invested in the first half of the year. Despite the lockdown and high investment activity, interest-bearing debt amounted to only CHF 10 million as of 30 June 2020.

Short-term planning – fluctuating demand

The tourist infrastructure was reopened on 6 June 2020. With a three-month interruption, a total of 100,600 guests travelled to the Jungfraujoch – Top of Europe in the first half of the year. This represents a decrease of 78.6%. For the Experience Mountains, the Jungfrau Railway Group posted net transport revenue of CHF 3.5 million, a 62.2% drop. In general, strongly fluctuating visitor numbers, depending on the weather, have posed a particular challenge since reopening. For this reason, the Jungfrau Railway Group is employing short-term planning both in the deployment of rolling stock and in personnel terms.

After a stormy start to the 2019/2020 winter sports season, more skier visits were seen over the holidays and in January 2020 than in the 2018/2019 season. For the reporting period from 1 January 2020 to the premature end of the season on 14 March 2020, the Jungfrau Ski Region – in which the Jungfrau Railway Group has a revenue share of over 60% – registered 744,700 skier visits, representing a decrease of 17.6% compared to the previous year. The Jungfrau Railway Group generated net transport revenue of CHF 17.8 million (-6.7%) from its winter sports business.<s></s>

V-cableway major long-term project – Mürren Rail- and Cableway renovation

The winter months were challenging in regard to the main strategic project – the V-cableway. Storms caused 22 days of downtime on the construction site between October and December 2019 alone. Thanks to the dedication that all of the workers demonstrated on the construction site, it was possible to make up for the backlog. Despite the closure of the tourist railways due to Covid-19, construction sites were able to remain open during the first half of 2020 under observance of hygiene and social distancing regulations. One milestone was the cable pull for the Eiger Express, which was performed over the course of around 15 weeks from the end of April to mid-August.

The complete renovation of the Grütschalp-Mürren adhesion railway also continued without interruption. Following the construction of the new cableway in 2006, the railway line, stations and rolling stock between Grütschalp and Mürren are now being renovated. With these measures, the Lauterbrunnen – Mürren Rail- and Cableway (BLM) will implement the public transport-related provisions stated in the Law on Equal Treatment for People with Disabilities by 2023. Investments in the renovation of the BLM and its follow-up costs are guaranteed by the Canton of Berne.

Outlook

Since the reopening of the tourist railways, there are positive effects to be seen from the various promotions carried out in Switzerland with TV ads and advertisements. In July and August alone, 153,000 people travelled to the Jungfraujoch – Top of Europe. The majority of the guests were Swiss. The multi-day and multi-month passes that were offered also proved to be very popular.

The Jungfrau Railways' Experience Mountains also saw many local guests, and with the opening of borders within Europe, visitors from neighbouring European countries also began coming again. However, as the figures for the first half of the year show, this is not enough to compensate for the absence of international customers. In order to be ready for the upturn and to ensure that there is a mutual exchange of information on new developments, we continue to maintain regular contact with the main markets in Asia.

Realisation of the once-in-a-generation V-cableway project is in full swing. Work is on track at all of the construction sites. As a result, it will be possible to open the Eiger Express 3S cableway and the entire terminal in Grindelwald Grund one week earlier, on 5 December 2020. With these developments, the Jungfrau Railway Group is giving the Jungfrau region, the Canton of Berne and Switzerland as a whole a positive boost in these challenging times. This will make winter sports in the Jungfrau Ski Region even more attractive with enhanced public transport infrastructure and a time reduction of 47 minutes for transport from Interlaken Ost to the Jungfraujoch – Top of Europe.

The continuing spread of Covid-19 (coronavirus) continues to have a negative impact on the business performance of Jungfraubahn Holding AG. At present, it is not possible to assess the financial consequences of the pandemic. As things stand, the company assumes that, despite a loss, it can expect a positive EBITDA for 2020 as a whole.

Changes in the JBH Board of Directors

In addition, the Board of Directors of Jungfraubahn Holding AG reached the following resolutions as part of the ongoing further development: The Board of Directors has decided to gradually reintroduce the 12-year term limitation as planned. It was suspended during the planning and realisation of the V-cableway. For this reason, the most senior member of the Board of Directors, the current Vice Chairman Ueli Winzenried, will step down at the forthcoming General Meeting (GM) on 17 May 2021 and will not be replaced, as the number of Board members will once again be six. Heinz Karrer is intended to take over the office of Vice Chairman. At the 2022 GM, the current Chairman, Thomas Bieger, will step down and Heinz Karrer is suggested to the GM as president.