Tram, the brand under which the concession companies are included Metropolitan tram (TramBaix) Y Besòs Metropolitan Tramway (TramBesòs) is, despite the pandemic, a great business, of about 70 million euros per year and the ability to convert one in four euros of profit turnover to be distributed among its shareholders in almost all of its fiscal years. A part of the income comes from the validated tickets and the rest, from the compensation for the fare deficit. The coronavirus crisis has taken a bite out of the income of the concession companies of this public service, which under normal circumstances exceed 34 or 35 million per year each, between the sale of tickets and the compensation they receive. In any case, it is still a good business, above the 60 million between the two companies last year, according to some sources, since in the concession companies opacity prevails over any data related to the accounts or the distribution of benefits.

The shareholders of the two companies, which will foreseeably also operate the central section of the tram on Avenida Diagonal, have been divided since both have been in operation, the first in 2000 and the second in 2003, around 200 million in dividends on a total net profit of about 210 to 220 million and a capital, that is to say, the resources that the partners really contributed from their pockets, of about 41.6 million, that is, they have received about five times what they disbursed. The rest is bank debt.

Barcelona Metropolitan Transport (TMB) and Generalitat Railways (FFG), have 2.5% of the capital each. The rest are private shareholders, currently headed with more than 40% of the capital in both by the infrastructure manager, Globalway, controlled by funds Canada, Holland and the United Kingdom, which operates 22 highways in Spain and six other countries, the Barajas Metro, the Seville Metro, the Madrid light rail or the Parla tram (Madrid), among others. From 2016 to the beginning of this year he was president of these two concessionaires Felip Puig, ‘ex-minister’ in CiU governments as head of Territorial Policy and Public Works, Interior and Business and Employment; who has been replaced by the CEO of Globalvia, Javier Pérez Fortea.

Facing the extension of the tram in the central section of Avenida Diagonal the conditions of the concession are being reconsidered at the request of Esquerra Republicana (ERC) which initially demanded public control of the management of the new infrastructure. In any case, it is already taken for granted that the same concessionaires will be in charge of the exploitation, but it is planned to include a limitation of industrial profit different from the current situation.

Lower earnings

It would be that the profits from the management were more limited, according to the sources consulted, which is something that, according to the same sources, the companies would be willing to accept. In recent years, the annual net income of each of the companies has been around 8 or 9 million, which represents between 16 and 18 million per year between the two and, in most years they have been used to pay good part to shareholders, something that is not limited by law or contract. The rescue of the concession expiring in 2032, which at some point had been raised, has been completely ruled out because it would mean between 227 and 440 million euros, according to city council calculations.

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If something characterizes these companies, whose business management is not questioned, it is a certain opacity in the information, despite being public concessionaires. At this point in the year, only the 2020 accounts of the TramBesòs company are recorded in the Mercantile Registry, which closed last year with 27.3 million revenues, 23.7% less than in 2019 and a profit of 6.8 million, 23.8% less, allocated entirely to pay back its shareholders through the dividend. Barcelona Metropolitan Railway, of the TMB company, voted against this distribution of benefits at the last shareholders’ meeting last June. But it has only 2.5% of the capital, as does Generalitat Railways, which endorsed all the items on the agenda. This concessionaire does not detail in its accounts the amount of the subsidies received.

The accounts of the other company, Transport Metropolità, which operates the TramBaix, are in the Registry, but have not yet been published “due to a formal defect”, according to sources close to society, who refuse to anticipate the content, although they admit that they have been affected by restrictions on mobility during the pandemic last year. In any case, the effects of the pandemic were felt. In a first estimate, the concessionaire company calculated that Between January 1 and May 31, 2020, demand was reduced by 46.07%, compared to the same period of the previous year and was significantly below the budgeted demand. In any case, the company chose to distribute dividends, with which between the two companies they would have distributed in 2020, the year of the pandemic, to their shareholders at least 14 million euros.

Not even the accounts of the two companies are presented in the same way. The TramBaix concessionaire received grants of 225.9 million between 2003 and 2015 as stated in their reports, while they are received by TramBesòs, they are not detailed. In any case, in the 202o report of the Tramvia Metropolità del Besòs company there are 27.3 million euros of income, of which 2.6 million corresponded to the tariff system and the rest, more than 24 million, to a monthly consideration to which the company is entitled and financial income collected in the concession agreement. In 2019, with total revenues of more than 35 million, 5.1 million corresponded to the rate system and the rest to the monthly consideration and financial income from the concession agreement. In Transport Metropolità (TramBaix), in 2019 and 2018, total revenues were 36 and 35.3 million, of which about 11 million and about 10.6 million, respectively, corresponded to the tariff system and the rest, to the consideration planned.

Dividends

One of the characteristics of these companies is that they usually distribute profits generously among its shareholders, with the exception of the first four or five years at the beginning of the concession. Even the most critical admit that there is no legal impediment to this being so. Both companies have the same shareholding, with the infrastructure manager Globalvía, owned by the pension funds, OPTrust (Canada), PGGM (Holland) and USS (United Kingdom), with more than 40% of the capital; followed by Marfina (family group society Movers), with 20% and the French train manufacturer Alstom, with 19%. In addition to the 5% public stake between Metro and Ferrocarrils, other shareholders with small stakes are the French public transport operator Transdev, the Catalan Comsa Emte Y FCC.

Since they began to operate, the two companies have added some 210.9 million euros of profits, of which they have distributed some 186.6 million among their shareholders, although those distributed in 2020 by Tramvia Metropolità are still missing, with which the total amount disbursed for partners would be around 200 million euros and total profit between 210 and 220 million. There are years in which companies have provided more dividends than the profits obtained. It happened for example in 2010, when Tramvia Metropolità del Besòs distributed more than 27 million dividends, with a profit of 4.9 million.

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Neither are the conditions of the concession of both companies the same. In the case of TramBesòs, whose company was established in 2003, the construction project was 205 million euros, and the monthly consideration that has not been disclosed is added another annual 13,050,000 euros between 2004 and 2021. In the In the case of TramBaix, whose company was established in 2000, with an investment of 230.8 million, the conditions are less clear and neither the concession company nor the Metropolitan Transport Authority (ATM), the regulatory entity, provide them. According to the conditions of the contracts, both companies made 12% of the investments with their own funds and the rest, through bank financing.

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One of the most controversial moments was lived in December 2019, when the companies refinanced their debt, which went from 87 to 164 million. In addition to lowering interest, the operation served to reserve 90 million for future dividendss.

From construction companies to infrastructure management

The tram concessionaires have changed their shareholding since the activity began, in 2000 in the case of Tramvia Metropolità (TramBaix) and 2002 in that of Tramvia Metropolità del Besòs (TramBesòs). The most important change occurred in 2013, when Globalvía ​​(then 50% owned by FCC and Bankia), an infrastructure management company, became a shareholder, which acquired 30% of the capital, with which FCC and Comsa reduced their stakes and Banc Sabadell and Société Générale, which were also part of the companies from the beginning, left the capital.

The following year, Globalvía ​​increased its stake above 40% by selling Acciona its 11.78% stake in one of the companies and 12.88% in the other. Since then, this company, which is currently owned by the PTrust, PGGM and USS funds, has been the main shareholder, followed by Alstom and Marfina, a company of the Catalan group specialized in mobility Moventia and Alstom. Comsa, FCC, the French mobility operator Transdev, as well as the public companies TMB and Ferrocarrils Generalitat also have smaller stakes, with 2.5% each.

The infrastructures experienced some first years of uncertainty, but over time the demand has exceeded all expectations. In 2019, the prepandemic exercise, between the two concessionaires made almost 30 million trips that, last year, due to the restrictions derived from the pandemic, fell to 16 million, a level similar to that of the beginning of the concession at the beginning of the 2000s. In any case, a strong recovery in demand is expected.

The evolution has been meteoric. In 2004, 7.7 million trips were registered, which were 13 million the following year and 16.9 million in 2006. The upward progression has been constant, since after the TramBaix was launched, between 2004 and 2006 it was he did the Trambesòs, until reaching the present time.

Reference-www.elperiodico.com

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