The CEO’s Assessment
Josep Martínez Vila
The pandemic caused by COVID-19 has undoubtedly been the most disruptive factor in the history of the company’s activity, affecting the business and professional sphere, but also the personal aspect. We all mourn the death in 2020 of three Saba collaborators, two in Barcelona and one in the United Kingdom, as a result of the health crisis. Their memory is indelible for us.
In a complex and demanding year like 2020, Saba designed and implemented a series of measures aimed at combating this exceptional situation, which persists in 2021, revised and adapted to the evolution of the crisis and framed in a context of limitations to mobility and restrictions in economic activities adopted by the authorities to contain disease transmission. All starting from the premise of preserving the health of employees and customers, and providing continuity to the business, considered to be a relevant and essential public service.
Among all the actions, I would like to highlight the maintenance of car park network operation, under the circumstances, as well as the activity of the Customer service and Control Centre (CCC), to which car parks in three countries in the network are connected. It operates 24 hours, 7 days a week and has been a key part of this operation, thanks to the quick action that initially enabled two alternative centres to be established, to then be made virtual, in the employees own homes.
Application of technology has been essential in meeting the enormous challenge posed by this health crisis, which has enabled remote working in central services from day one, with the right digital tools, and the remote management of the car parks themselves. It has also facilitated the drive to digitise the business, by enhancing sales channels and offering new products tailored to the particular demands generated in a pandemic scenario. Under continual review, I am convinced that this will be one of the levers in the gradual recovery of activity to the levels seen prior to the COVID-19 crisis.
The application of technology has been essential to meeting the enormous challenge posed by the health crisis: remote working, remote management and business digitisation
The CCC totals nearly 300 connected car parks in Spain, Italy and Portugal, soon to incorporate car parks in Chile and the United Kingdom
In 2020, as a result of the impact of the crisis pandemic, Saba’s comparable short stay activity fell by 47% from 2019, while the number of subscribers was 15% lower than in the previous year. As regards the main figures, operating income totalled 198 million euros, 34% less than 2019, and EBITDA was 72 million euros, 48% lower. Saba invested 31 million euros in the 2020 financial year, of which 15 million were for expansion projects, highlighting the 7.5 million euros for acquisition of the “Gran Bulevar” car park in Oviedo.
Noteworthy development operations include the 30-year lease agreement for Picoas Plaza in Lisbon and the management contract for Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust hospitals’ car parks in the United Kingdom , with seven centres located to the west and north-west of London, with a total of 2,900 spaces. In addition, Saba and Siemens signed an agreement with Vivantes, Germany’s largest municipal hospital operator, to operate the car parks of eight hospitals in Berlin, with over 1,200 spaces. This is Saba’s first operation in the German capital.
The Group’s evolution in the short and medium term will be conditioned by the macroeconomic context of each country it operates in, together with the effects of COVID-19. Saba, is constantly monitoring the situation and the possible impacts, both financial and non-financial, that the health crisis is causing in this regard, with strict control over costs and investments.
On this point, I would like to highlight the effort made in the financial field, with comprehensive control of liquidity and debt, which remain stable despite the exceptional situation, and the prolongation of the existing financing of its car parks in Europe (Club Deal).
In terms of efficiency, operational management and service quality, the CCC currently has almost 300 connected car parks in Spain, Italy and Portugal, compared to 235 in 2019, with car parks in Chile and the United Kingdom soon to be added.
Saba continues to drive and boost strategic business initiatives such as the launch of payment by number plate, both for subscribers and short stays
Saba continues to drive and boost strategic business initiatives such as the launch of payment by number plate, both for subscribers and short stays, as well as Saba business website and app expansion and e-commerce services (with remodelling and improvement of features under way), extending it to all the countries where it operates. Visits to the e-commerce websites in Spain, Italy, Portugal and Chile reached 1.4 million in 2020 and the number of transactions stood at over 38,800.
We work to ensure that the car park remains part of the solution to cities’ current needs, their transformation, and to citizens’ new mobility habits. Car parks not just for cars and motorcycles, but also for bicycles and other vehicles of personal micro-mobility, such as scooters, in an intermodal regime, between these and also with public transport.
Similarly, the car park plays a key role towards becoming a shared mobility node, and Saba has experience over some time with commercial agreements with car sharing and rent-a-car companies, for example. It also has an indispensable role as an electrical infrastructure point. Saba currently has 237 electric charging points in 57 car parks in Spain, 74 points in 11 car parks in the United Kingdom, 50 charging points in 14 car parks in Portugal and more than 30 points at 11 sites in Chile. In addition, we are finalising the implementation of charging spaces in 15 Italian car parks.
In conclusion, I would like to briefly indicate the priorities and challenges we face in 2021, where the care and safety of all of Saba employees come first. Second comes business continuity, which must remain key. We will need to focus on ensuring car park operations, customer service, revenue recovery, tight control over costs and adapting services to our customers’ new needs. Finally, we will continue to work to be a benchmark mobility manager, with the ambition of supporting the company’s growth and opening up new lines of innovation in the sector to contribute to its consolidation in the future.
And we will achieve all this if we continue to trust the common project Saba represents. If we keep up the effort and if we look beyond the short term, at a future of recovery in which we can overcome this environment of uncertainty. I can only thank, on behalf of the management team, Saba’s entire team for their commitment at difficult moments and times of great sacrifice, which is enabling us to surmount this pandemic crisis situation.