Eurostar gets £250m refinancing deal to manage Covid impact

Channel tunnel train operator’s passenger numbers dropped by 95% after March 2020 lockdown

Last modified on Tue 18 May 2021 11.24 EDT

Eurostar, the operator of train services to Paris and other destinations via the Channel Tunnel, and has secured a £250m refinancing deal from its shareholders and banks to help it manage the impact of the Covid-19 crisis.

Eurostar said the coronavirus pandemic had affected it more than any European railway operator or competing airline, and that the support package would help it meet its financial liabilities.

“This refinancing is a major step towards securing Eurostar’s future,” its chief executive, Jacques Damas, said in a statement.

The firm, which operates high-speed rail links between the UK and mainland Europe from its St Pancras terminus in London, said the agreement includes £50m of equity capital from shareholders and a £150m loan guaranteed by its shareholders.

It also includes £50m of credit facilities that have been restructured.

Eurostar is 55% owned by the French national railway company SNCF, which led the refinancing effort. Another 40% is held by the Patina Rail consortium, which is made up of Canadian investment fund Caisse de Dépôt et Placement du Québec and funds managed by Federated Hermes. The Belgian railway firm SNCB also holds 5%.

The UK government sold its stake in Eurostar in 2015 and resisted calls to join the bailout.

The shareholders have already pumped an extra €200m (£172m) into the business to help it survive the pandemic lockdowns.

Passenger numbers on the cross-Channel train service slumped by 95% after the initial lockdowns in March last year and then dwindled even more as national borders were closed again during the second coronavirus wave this winter.

The train operator gave a stark warning in January that it might not survive without additional funding.

From 27 May, Eurostar will increase its services to two daily London-Paris return trips, with a third daily trip planned from the end of June, and will boost circulation over the summer as travel limits are relaxed.

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