Travel caterer SSP has announced “strong” full-year results while chief executive Kate Swann (pictured) is stepping down after five years.
Swann will step down from her role on 31 May 2019 to be succeeded by Simon Smith, who is currently chief executive of the group’s UK and Ireland business.
The group’s results for the year ended 30 September 2018 saw profit before tax of £184.4m, an increase of 24% on the previous year; revenues of £2,564.9m (up 9%); and like-for-like sales up 2.8%, driven by growth in air passenger travel (trading in the rail sector has been “softer”).
In the group’s UK business, revenue increased by 1.3%, hitting £798.1m. Like-for-like growth in the air sector was affected by the collapse of Monarch Airlines and capacity reductions at Ryanair, while the rail sector was impacted by station redevelopments and closures across the network, most notably in London.
Looking forward to 2019, with the ongoing level of geopolitical and economic uncertainty, the group said it plans “conservatively”, anticipating like-for-like sales growth to continue to be between 2% and 3%.
Swann said: “Today we’ve announced another record set of results, growing earnings a further 24% and proposing £150m return of cash to shareholders, so I am stepping down at a time when the business is clearly in great shape, with a strong senior management team and enormous future growth potential.
“I look forward to working closely with Simon in the next six months to ensure a smooth handover, and I am confident that he will lead the group to even greater success in the future.”
Smith said he was “confident” that the group will “continue to build on the success achieved”.
Vagn Sørensen, SSPs Group’s chairman, added: “It has been a pleasure to work with Kate, and on behalf of the board I want to thank her for her enormous contribution to the group. In the past five years, Kate has transformed SSP into an industry-leading food travel retail business, which has grown significantly around the world, and she has generated significant returns for our shareholders.
“Simon joined SSP Group in 2014 and has contributed significantly to the performance of the group as CEO of UK and Ireland for the past four years. Since joining, Simon’s role has expanded and he has taken on wider global leadership responsibilities, most recently looking after the integration and development of our joint venture business in India, which has delivered excellent results.
“Simon’s strong leadership skills combined with his considerable experience in the food travel and retail space, as well as his track record at SSP, make him well placed to lead SSP to continued future success.”
SSP operates more than 2,600 sites – including at approximately 140 airports and 280 rail stations – in 33 countries around the world across more than 500 brands.