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Faced with the European railway companies, the SNCF supports the comparison

Investments, productivity, debt: the French company is doing pretty well against the German Deutsche Bahn and the Italian Ferrovie dello Stato.
The world | 16.04.2018 at 06:36 • Updated 16.04.2018 at 11:44 | By Philippe Jacqué

Comparison is not right. This old adage has never been as true as in the case of SNCF . As the government prepares for the opening of the rail system to competition, watch how these reforms unfolded among our European neighbors may be rich in lessons. “But you must never forget that the la France is very different from these countries. It has geographic and demographic characteristics that are not very relevant to what it is Germany or the Italy ” , warns Bernard Soulage, the president of the scientific council of the Group of the authorities responsible for transport network (GART).
This warning, the analysis of indicators calculated at go of the financial state of the big three society European railways makes it possible to underline the strengths and weaknesses of each. We looked at the financial results of two former large monopolies currently in competition: Deutsche Bahn (DB) in Germany and its 310,935 employees and Ferrovie dello Stato (FS) in Italy (74,436 employees). In this little game, the SNCF (271 090 employees) largely supports the comparison, knowing that it is all the groups that has been studied (SNCF includes Keolis and Geodis, the DB includes Arriva, and Schenker …).
Investments: SNCF at the forefront For the past three years, France, Germany or Italy have launched vast investment plans for railways. After Germany, which announced its intention to spend 50 billion euros between 2015 and 2020 for rail, Italy unveiled in 2016 a 10-year investment plan of 94 billion euros. France is not left out: in 2017, the government plans 46 billion euros over ten years to come . If we add the equipment and other purchases, the sum inflates again.
However, when reading the accounts of the three business we can see that the French company is the one that invests the most in proportion to its turnover. This explains, in part, that mainline trains are more punctual in France (84.96%) than in Germany (78.5%). SNCF spends some 15.3% of its income on investment, compared to 11.9% for FS and less than 9% for DB. This discrepancy is explained by the fact that the German or Italian governments subsidize the network work much more.
Efficiency: French railway workers more productive than Germans For demonstrate the operational efficiency of the three companies, we divide the gross operating surplus (Ebitda), that is to say the results obtained after the payment of all expenses and before imputation of investments and financial expenses, by the size of each operator. This calculation teaches us two things. First of all, it is the Italian railways that are today considered to be the most economically efficient. On average, an Italian railway worker earns an operating margin of 31,000 euros, while a Frenchman approaches 17,000 euros and an employee of the DB produces 15,000 euros of margin per year.
In short, despite a majority staff status, French railway workers are now more productive than their German counterparts, who are no longer recruited to the status since 1995. Even better, the German Federal State pays the extra cost related to employees still civil servants. ‘business. Clearly, the extinction of the status does not appear as a condition sine qua non for improve the productivity of the French operator.
Debt: the SNCF borrows at a better price With 54.5 billion euros of debt, the French rail network is by far the most indebted. FS posted a slate of 7.2 billion euros, and DB a debt of 18.6 billion euros. The smaller amount of DB is explained by the history . When Germany unites the state railway companies of FRG and GDR in 1993, Berlin decides to shed the new company of its debt, which amounted to 17.6 billion euros, to divide to zero.
A quarter of a century later, the DB made a significant contribution to reinvest but it can, because that equals 3.8 years of Ebitda. Italy is 3.1 years Ebitda, when France needs 11.9 years of operating margin for cover his debt … In order to to become a public limited company, the SNCF will have to reduce its debt significantly for bring back this ratio to a maximum of 5 to 7 years of Ebitda, which implies the recovery of part of the debt by the State.
That said, thanks to its current status as a public establishment, the SNCF borrows at the same rate as the state, at a better price than the DB. Thus, the national company pays just twice as much financial expense each year for a debt three times larger. When it is transformed into a public limited company, SNCF will borrow at a higher rate, which will increase its financial costs.

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