May 4, 2020 / 5:14 PM / 3 months ago

UPDATE 1-Belgium's Bpost scraps guidance over pandemic uncertainty

(Adds CEO quote, details, background)

May 4 (Reuters) - Belgian postal operator Bpost scrapped its full-year earnings forecast on Monday and suspended its dividend policy, blaming uncertainty caused by coronavirus pandemic.

The company said the decisions would last until the longer-term impact of the crisis became clear.

"Given the uncertainties and ongoing developments we are not in a position to date to accurately and reliably estimate the full quantitative (COVID-19) impact on full year 2020 results and will communicate as soon as this assessment can be made," Bpost's chief executive Jean-Paul Van Avermaet said.

At the end of March, Bpost had said it expected full-year group operating income to rise by a low single-digit percentage, with adjusted earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) coming in between 240 and 270 million euros ($262-$294 million).

The group, which is 51% state-owned, reported first-quarter adjusted EBIT of 75.6 million euros, down 21% year-on-year, but beating a company-provided consensus estimate of 74.2 million.

Bpost provides parcel and e-commerce logistics across Europe, North America and Asia, but has suffered from declining mail volumes as communications shift online and coronavirus-related restrictions have hit international transport logistics.

The company estimated the impact of the pandemic on its first-quarter EBIT was around 16.7 million euros.

Over the quarter, Bpost's advertising mail volumes dropped by over 60%, while cross-border logistics in Europe and Asia were hit by border closures and reduced air freight capacity.

Earlier on Monday, Dutch rival PostNL reported weaker-than-expected first quarter earnings, but maintained its 2020 outlook, citing opportunities in e-commerce and consumer mail despite the coronavirus uncertainties.

Bpost's previous dividend policy was to pay out a minimum 85% of the group's unconsolidated net result. It proposed cancelling its final 2019 dividend payout at the end of March.

$1 = 0.9175 euros Reporting by Sarah Morland in Gdansk; editing by David Evans and Mark Potter

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