After two dark years marked by a white winter season in 2020-2021, Compagnie des Alpes has raised its head for almost a year. The amusement parks are full during the summer and the winter weather seems to be good again in the mountainous areas. However, this development, which will occur in the return of profit for the financial year that ends on September 30, is prevented by the explosion of energy costs.
Not enough to prevent ski lifts and other cable cars from operating at full speed this winter. “Signals are very good so far”, rejoiced Dominique Thillaud, Managing Director of Compagnie des Alpes, when discussing the outlook for this winter. He added: “Even at the beginning, the signals are very good for Christmas as well as the whole season. We are quite confident. » Reservations are later than before the crisis, but “the appetite is there”.
This winter should also be marked by the return of British tourists who were absent last year. The Travelski Express, in partnership with Eurostar to serve alpine resorts from the United Kingdom, will also be restored throughout the season. On the other hand, Dominique Thillaud made sure that the absence of Russian tourists had no effect on the places he manages (La Plagne, Les Arcs, Tignes, Val d’Isère, Méribel, Les Menuires, Serre Chevalier and Grand Massive).
If the momentum continues, the results of last winter (2021-2022) should be exceeded, at least in terms of numbers. However, the latter is very good with a consequent increase in the last full winter (2018-2019) in turnover (+ 11% in ski areas, + 16% in total up to 541 million euros) as operating profit (+ 56% to 165 million euros).
Volumes are important, but they are not enough to guarantee profit. And in the current case, the Compagnie des Alpes will suffer from the energy crisis. “As a public service delegate, we have our own risk of good and bad years. There, obviously, it will be a less good year in any case compared to the price of electricity », willingly admitted to the leader. Energy bills, which already increased by 50% last winter, will increase by 300% this year. It should weigh around 15% of operating costs, even with a hedging system, compared to around 4% before the crisis.
“It is a dangerous system that requires a systemic solution. The European electricity pricing system disrupts the entire economy of French companies. It is an amplifier of the crisis, in an unjustified manner. […] The most urgent is an ultra-fast decision now for 2023”, called Dominique Thillaud, about the rise in energy prices.
“The consumption is proportionate to the fleet. In the domains we operate, we are clearly one of the biggest consumers”acknowledged Dominique Thillaud before adding bluntly: “However, we will open everything. There is no other choice, it is our responsibility to our delegators, to the entire ecosystem and, above all, to our customers. » This inflation of energy costs must weigh heavily.
All the more difficult because the Compagnie des Alpes is handicapped by a significant gap: due to the public service nature of the ski lifts, they are managed by private operators under concession under public service delegations ( DSP), with prices set in advance. In this case, the Compagnie des Alpes decided on its price list last spring. True, the increase in energy prices has already begun to be felt, but to a lesser extent than today. The increase in the price of the packages is determined by the time, so it is only partially considered as inflation. So it is not enough to absorb it, with a loss of profit as a result.
On the contrary, other players such as SNCF, Compagnie des Alpes cannot take advantage of the Regulated Access to Historic Nuclear Electricity (Arenh) due to the calculation periods for the allocation of quotas (based on consumption in April and June then September- October, when activity is weakest in the field). A situation that is considered unfair by Dominique Thillaud, who recognizes another side that will benefit from it for his amusement parks.
If he proves the need for goodness, like last winter, it will apply conditionally “to keep customers out of sight” and therefore concentrates on non-operational areas with measures such as cutting heating. So there is no question of reducing the opening hours or slowing down the ski lifts, “steal the customer” as the CEO of Compagnie des Alpes clearly stated.
After confirming his will “to eliminate its carbon footprint in scope 1 and 2”Dominique Thillaud ensures that actions are implemented to reduce emissions inside the station: the snow groomers, the main sources of pollution, will be provided only with biofuel (used cooking oils, excluding palm oil ), and cannons develop snow machines to reduce. water and electricity consumption by 15%.
While waiting for the start of the winter season, Dominique Thillaud is also working to complete his current fiscal year. It will end on September 30 and will result in the return of income to Compagnie des Alpes, after a two-year absence. For the 2020-2021 financial year, the group lost more than two thirds of its turnover compared to the standards before the crisis, with 241 million euros earned, and above all recorded a net loss of 122 million euros. In the first three quarters of the current financial year, it has already achieved a turnover of 745 million euros (+ 18% compared to 2018-2019) and should exceed the level before the crisis.