For the first time since it was founded Zermatt Bergbahnen AG (ZBAG) held the 19th Ordinary General Meeting, without the personal participation of the shareholders, who could only exercise their rights through the independent proxy. The reason for this was the current situation in connection with the coronavirus. ZBAG was able to achieve stable results in the 2019/20 financial year (June 1, 2019 - May 31, 2020) despite the closure of its operations on March 13, 2020. With sales of CHF 64.9 million, an EBITDA of CHF 31.1 million (48% of sales) and an operating cash flow of CHF 27.3 million (42% of sales), industry top values were still achieved, although the two-and-a-half-month shutdown was around CHF 15 million in sales and around CHF 13 million in EBITDA and cash flow each.
The General Assembly took place based on Art. 27 of Ordinance 3 on Measures to Fight the Coronavirus (COVID-19) of the Federal Council without the personal participation of the shareholders. They could only exercise their rights through the independent proxy.
The dry and beautiful summer 2019 is reflected in the new record numbers. In the months of June and July there were new top results in terms of the number of guests and also in terms of sales. August, September and October were within the framework of the respective previous years. In addition to individual travel, the sale of leisure activities such as the Peak Pass, Bike Pass and round trips developed positively. Initial admissions increased by almost 3% in summer 2019. The share of summer business in traffic revenue rose to over 29% of total traffic revenue. However, this is largely due to the decline in winter business caused by the decreed closure of the company.
From November, the guests were offered the best conditions for winter sports and the optimistic expectations for winter business were fully confirmed in the first half of the season. The number of first-day admissions in December exceeded the previous year's figure, and a new record was even set in January. February also delivered above-average figures.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Italian state closed the ski area in Cervinia / Valtournenche on March 8, 2020. On March 13, 2020, the lockdown in Switzerland was also a fact. As a result of this cessation of operations in an important season for the company, the winter sports business has lost 20.18% or CHF 10.7 million in transport income compared to the previous year.
At the end of the financial year, the following figures emerged: The operating income shown in the annual financial statements was CHF 64.9 million, which is CHF 11.2 million or 14.7% below the previous year's result. The key figures EBITDA with CHF 31.1 million (48% of sales) and cash flow with CHF 27.3 million (42% of sales) are satisfactory in view of the current crisis situation. Even under the current general conditions, these are absolute top values in the mountain railway industry. Compared to the previous year, EBITDA fell by CHF 8.4 million or -21.3%, and cash flow by CHF 8.3 million or -23.4%. The investments made in the past financial year amounted to CHF 25.5 million, depreciation to CHF 26 million and company profit to CHF 1.5 million.
The traces of the COVID-19 crisis are clearly visible in the 2019/2020 annual financial statements. Nevertheless, the course of business in summer 2019 as well as in winter 2019/2020 shows that the consistent implementation of the goals from Strategy 2022 will bring the expected success.
Despite the lockdown, the house banks were ready to press ahead with the continuation of the planned two major investments in the amount of around CHF 60 million together with ZBAG. Based on this decision, the Board of Directors decided in April 2020, despite the difficult initial situation, to continue the construction of the 3S cable car Testa Grigia - Klein Matterhorn and the associated “AlpineX” project and to tackle the Kumme gondola lift project including the snow-making system. If everything goes according to plan, the Kumme gondola lift will start operating on December 20, 2020 in time for the upcoming winter season.
All motions of the Board of Directors were approved with over 98% of the shareholders' votes. Due to the great future uncertainty, the net profit will be carried forward to the new account and the dividend for the 2019/20 financial year will be suspended. The members of the Board of Directors, Franz Julen, Jean-Michel Cina, Gerold Biner, Hermann Biner, Andreas Perren, Patrick Z'Brun and Roland Zegg, who are up for re-election, were confirmed in office. Franz Julen was also re-elected as President and Jean-Michel Cina as Vice President.
Markus Hasler, CEO of Zermatt Bergbahnen AG, comments on the annual result as follows: “The traces of the COVID-19 crisis are clearly visible in the annual financial statements. It is very clear that our house banks also believe in ZBAG and its strategy. Without the shutdown of operations and with a view to the snow and weather conditions by the end of April, the excellent result from the previous year could have been exceeded again and the magic limit of 80 million operating income would have been within reach ».
«The entire tourism industry is facing difficult times. We will continue to act with the necessary caution and foresight. A financially healthy ZBAG is one of the essential prerequisites for a successful destination. The cooperation with our Italian partners plays an essential role in the future strategy. These include the two 3S lifts on the Klein Matterhorn, the expansion of the infrastructure on the Klein Matterhorn and the Testa Grigia, the connection with Monte Rosa Ski and the planned cross-border World Cup races from Gobba di Rollin down to Laghi Cime Bianche. All of these projects represent a vision for the next generations. " the President, Franz Julen, looks to the future with optimism.