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SSP Group reportedly seeking £500m ($693m) from shareholders

Owner of the Upper Crust and Caffè Ritazza brands reportedly seeking cash injection as Covid-19 continues to decimate trade at travel hub locations

World Coffee Portal data shows SSP Group brand Caffè Ritazza closed net 16 stores to operate a total of UK 15 sites during 2020 | Photo credit: SSP Group 



Responding to a report in the Financial Times, SSP Group said that it “continues to evaluate a range of funding options, both debt and equity, that would further strengthen its balance sheet”.
 
SSP operates around 2,800 outlets at 180 airports and 300 railway stations in 36 countries. It runs its own café brands, such as Caffè Ritazza, Upper Crust and Camden Food Co. in addition to franchises such as Starbucks and Burger King.
 
The UK-based travel concession operator has been particularly hard-hit by Covid-19 trade and travel restrictions, which have decimated footfall at its core travel hub locations. In July 2020 it announced 5,000 UK-based jobs would be lost as it grappled with a 90% fall in revenues.
 
In December 2020, the troubled operator reported a pre-tax loss of £372m, with weekly sales down 93% and 76% in its third and fourth quarters respectively. The sustained disruption has resulted in a number of store closures among SSP operated brands.
 
Data from Project Café UK 2021 shows Upper Crust closed net nine UK stores in 2020 to operate a total of 28 sites, Caffè Ritazza closed net 16 stores to operate a total of 15 sites and Camden Food Co. closed net five stores to operate a total of 10 UK sites.
 
SSP’s fundraising drive echoes that of fellow international travel concession operator, Autogrill, which in January 2021 sought to raise €600m ($729m) from investors following prolonged Covid-19 disruption to the global travel industry. Sales at the Italian firm fell 56% in the first eight months of 2020, with debt rising to €1bn ($1.2bn) in the first half of 2020.
 
World Coffee Portal research shows the UK branded coffee shop segment to be valued at £3bn, a decline of 39% over the last 12 months due to unprecedented trading disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. The market is expected to return to modest outlet growth in 2022 but the timetable and pace of recovery remains deeply uncertain as the UK continues to battle significant Covid-19 hospitalisations and deaths.

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