Business: Bpost to put Relay and Press Shop chains up for sale

Business: Bpost to put Relay and Press Shop chains up for sale
© Ubiway Retail

Belgium’s postal service Bpost is planning to sell off one of its subsidiaries after disappointing financial results, De Tijd reports.

Ubiway Retail was acquired from the French group Lagardière in 2016 and is made up of several commercial entities, the best known of which are Relay, Press Shop and Kariboo. Relays are press and convenience shopping outlets mainly within train stations and airports; Press Shops are found mainly on shopping streets, and Kariboo is a parcel delivery service that provides lockers where people can have their packages delivered.

The purchase in 2016 was the first major act of new Bpost CEO Koen Van Gerven, whose aim was to diversify the company in areas close to the parent company’s core activities. But it was not to work out that way.

In 2016 at acquisition, Ubiway had sales of €168 million but operation profit of less than €1 million. According to the figures for 2019, earnings had gone up slightly to €184.5, and losses had gone down to €1.34 million. And the division was carrying forward losses of some €10 million.

Of course, the Covid-19 pandemic has been responsible for some of the division’s problems. People are teleworking or not working at all; shops have been forced to close at times, and at others to restrict what they are allowed to sell.

According to the latest annual report for 2020, Ubiway was responsible for a sharp increase in depreciation and amortisation, which went up from €61 million euros to €106 million.

The report also reveals that Bpost has split its retail interests into two – a Bpost network and an Ubiway network. The reason given is so as to be better able to monitor the two separately. Another explanation might be so as to be able to sell off Ubiway if a buyer can be found.

The case will be one of the first to be dealt with when Bpost appoints a new CEO, following the dismissal of Jean-Paul Van Avermaet last month. The company, meanwhile, declined to comment on De Tijd’s report, which it referred to as ‘market rumours’.

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times

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