SSP Group restarts dividends as sales exceed pre-Covid levels

  • The Upper Crust and Caffe Ritazza owner operates over 600 food-to-go outlets
  • SSP’s turnover climbed by 37.7% to over £3billion in the year ending September
  • SSP Group shares were one of the top five FTSE 250 risers on Tuesday morning

SSP Group has reinstated dividend payments after the continued recovery in air and rail journeys led to trade surging last year.

The Upper Crust and Caffe Ritazza owner, which operates more than 600 food-to-go outlets, intends to hand out a 2.5 pence per share full-year dividend.

It last paid dividends three years ago, before new lending arrangements struck at the outset of the Covid-19 pandemic prevented the London-based firm from declaring any shareholder returns.

Payout: Upper Crust owner SSP Group, which operates more than 600 food-to-go outlets, intends to hand out a 2.5 pence per share full-year dividend

The pandemic heavily impacted SSP due to work-from-home guidance and onerous cross-border travel restrictions slashing footfall at the company’s rail and airport establishments.

SSP’s annual sales have now exceeded pre-Covid levels, climbing by 37.7 per cent to just over £3billion in the year ending September, thanks to bumper growth across all territories amid an absence of Covid-related travel restrictions.

Like-for-like revenues soared by 31.5 per cent despite cost-of-living pressures and industrial action by railway workers across Britain and Continental Europe.

The sustained rebound in air travel buoyed trading in both territories, while the latter market also benefited from an extended summer holiday season.

SSP’s turnover was further uplifted by new outlet openings and the acquisition of Midfield concessions significantly expanding its presence in North America.

Solid sales growth helped the firm’s operating profits increase by 82.3 per cent to £167million and pre-tax profits climb by around 250 per cent to £88million.

Patrick Coveney, who became SSP’s chief executive last year following a decade in charge of Irish food giant Greencore, hailed the company’s ‘strong financial, operational and strategic progress’.

He added: ‘We are continuing to lay the foundations for accelerated expansion in key growth markets such as North America and Asia Pacific.’

SSP revealed its sales in the eight weeks since the start of October were up 22 per cent at constant currency levels.

Although the economic backdrop remains challenging, SSP anticipates additional revenue growth this year, supported by a sustained recovery in passenger demand and price hikes driving higher average per-customer spending.

The business expects annual turnover of between £3.4billion and £3.5billion, driven by like-for-like revenues expanding by 6 to 10 per cent and recent contract wins. Operating profits of £210million to £235million are also forecasted.

SSP Group shares were 4.7 per cent higher at 223p on Tuesday morning, making them the second-highest riser on the FTSE 250 Index.