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Upper Crust owner SSP says sales improving as outlets reopen

·1-min read

(Reuters) - Upper Crust and Caffe Ritazza owner SSP <SSPG.L> said on Wednesday weekly sales have recovered as some of its stores reopened after coronavirus curbs eased, while it still expects an 86% plunge in second-half overall sales.

SSP said current weekly sales improved compared with the third-quarter and are about 76% below last year following a stronger recovery in Continental Europe, but weakness in the UK, North America and the rest of the world have also weighed.

Shares in the company were up 3.5% at 187 pence in early trade.

"We have seen some improvement in passenger demand since the start of the crisis and we have reopened units swiftly and profitably in response to this, with over one-third of our units now trading," Chief Executive Officer Simon Smith said.

The operator of food and drink outlets in airports and train stations in 36 countries also expects materially lower cash usage in the second-half than earlier anticipated and sees passenger travel gradually returning in the medium term.

But the company expects second-half revenue to fall about 1.3 billion pounds to the lower end of its earlier outlook, while the operating loss is seen to be in the middle of the 180 million pounds to 250 million pounds range.

The travel and leisure sector is also bracing for a further hit as Britain imposed new curbs to tackle a second COVID-19 wave. Prime Minister Boris Johnson told people to work from home where possible and ordered restaurants and bars to close early.

(Reporting by Tanishaa Nadkar in Bengaluru; editing by Uttaresh.V)