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ComfortDelGro back in black with S$21.7m net profit in Q3, thanks to government relief

TRANSPORT operator ComfortDelGro managed net profit of S$21.7 million for the third quarter ended 30 Sept, down 69 per cent from S$70 million in the year-ago period, but improving from its net loss in the first half of the year.

In an update filed on the Singapore Exchange on Thursday after market close, the group said that, excluding government relief and impairment, it would still have achieved a profit after tax and minority interest of S$6.7 million.

Revenue for the quarter was down 16.3 per cent year on year at S$816.5 million. Public transport services saw the largest loss of S$86.1 million, with losses of S$49.8 million in the taxi segment, and S$21.9 million for automotive engineering services.

Without government relief in its various geographical markets, ComfortDelGro would have made an operating loss of S$0.2 million. With S$44.2 million granted in relief, it achieved an operating profit of S$44 million instead.

This relief included the Jobs Support Scheme and waiver of foreign worker levies in Singapore, the employee furlough scheme in the United Kingdom, partial exemption of social security contribution in China, and the JobsKeeper scheme in Australia.

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By region, operating profit was achieved in Singapore, Australia and China, but the UK saw an operating loss of S$18.3 million, including an impairment provision of S$17.5 million recognised in that quarter for taxi and regional coach businesses.

The latest quarter's figures enabled ComfortDelGro to edge back into the black, with net profit for the first nine months at S$15.7 million - though still down a massive 92.7 per cent from S$216.3 million in the year ago.

ComfortDelGro highlighted that the group's balance sheet remains strong, with a net cash position of S$115.5 million and a gross gearing ratio of 21.6 per cent.

ComfortDelGro also provided an overview of the Covid-19 pandemic and its effects on business. In Singapore, ridership of rail, bus and taxi services have recovered to about 55 per cent, 70 per cent, and 80 per cent of pre-Covid levels respectively, it noted.

In China, the group's taxi fleet is at over 90 per cent with no further rental discounts given. In Australia, there has been minimal impact on public bus services, though the charter business remains slow.

But in the UK, taxi, coach, and charter businesses are expected to be badly hit, though the Scottish and Irish governments have committed to coach services payments till March 2021.

ComfortDelGro said it would continue to watch developments in the UK, not only where the pandemic is concerned, but also Brexit talks and funding of Transport for London after March 2021, when the current funding of £1.7 billion (S$3.02 billion) ends.

ComfortDelGro shares closed up S$0.01 or 0.67 per cent at S$1.50 on Thursday before the news.

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