Abellio's Mutterkonzern Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS) stellte seinen Jahresbericht vor
NS wird in den kommenden fünf Jahren mehr Geld mit Auslandstöchtern verdienen als in den Niederlanden
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Within five years, NS may be making more money abroad than in the Netherlands
Profit of rail company rises to €212m because of divesting real estate
It is very well possible that five years from now, NS is generating more revenues abroad than the amount it receives in income from Dutch railway operations. CFO Bert Groenewegen of NS voiced this expectation on Tuesday, when the rail operator presented its annual report. In 2016 NS sold office buildings at railway stations and saw profits rise to € 212 million, compared with € 118 million in 2015.
‘In 2021 and 2022, the difference between turnover generated in the Netherlands and the amount generated abroad will have become very small indeed’, says Groenewegen, adding however that this will only apply if NS subsidiary Abellio manages to retain its current franchises and concessions in the United Kingdom and Germany. ‘Our turnover in Germany will amount to € 500 million by 2020 and will climb further to € 600 million by 2022, when all new franchises and concessions are effective. This is very similar to the turnover from Dutch passenger transport if we disregard the operation of our stations.’
Turnover from passenger transport by train in the Netherlands amounted to € 2.36 billion in 2016. Passenger transport by train and bus in the United Kingdom in that year yielded a total turnover of € 1.73 billion, excluding joint ventures. That figure could have been significantly higher if the pound sterling had not fallen so sharply following the Brexit referendum in June. At the 2015 exchange rate, turnover from the United Kingdom would have been a good 7% higher. Turnover in Germany amounted to € 194 million last year.
NS began operations outside the Netherlands in 2002. From then on, Abellio's activities expanded steadily, but that growth was interrupted eighteen months ago when it emerged that Qbuzz, a subsidiary of Abellio, had committed fraud in the context of a major tender in the Province of Limburg. This made it necessary for NS to come up with a new strategy. As part of that strategy, Qbuzz is to be sold – probably in the first half of this year. NS remains committed however to its foreign operations, despite the fact that some believe it should concentrate more on the core network in the Netherlands.
NS' argument is that it is learning a great deal from Abellio's experience 'in a highly competitive and commercial environment’, and that it can use this experience to further improve services in the Netherlands.
Dutch Minister of Finance Jeroen Dijsselbloem concurs with this line of reasoning. Even so, in January he told the Lower House of Dutch Parliament that he is imposing limits on the risks incurred by NS abroad. For instance, the company is not permitted to commit more than € 500 million in financial resources for foreign operations, and the guarantee provided by the parent company in connection with foreign tenders has also been capped.
According to Groenewegen, in the case of Abellio those limits have no restrictive effect. There is scope for growth. He does point out however that, as was previously announced, the maximum guarantee in the UK prompted the company to look for a partner for the Greater Anglia concession, and found Japanese company Mitsui prepared to take a 40% share. The contract was awarded in the summer of 2016.
When presenting the annual figures, CEO Roger van Boxtel of NS repeated his plea for more investment in infrastructure in the Netherlands, especially in public transport. ‘The list of priorities in spatial planning usually ends with mobility, but now we are facing immense congestion issues on two fronts, on the roads and in the railway network.’
According to Van Boxtel, following the rounds of cuts in recent years the current resources only cover maintenance and small improvements, while ‘huge steps now need to be taken to keep this country competitive. The British government is investing € 20 billion and Paris has even made € 35 billion available to fund large-scale transport plans. Compared with that, the Dutch investments are minute.'