(Reuters) - Belgian postal operator Bpost (BPOST.BR) scrapped its full-year earnings forecast on Monday and suspended its dividend policy, blaming uncertainty caused by coronavirus pandemic.
The company said the decisions would last until the longer-term impact of the crisis became clear.
“Given the uncertainties and ongoing developments we are not in a position to date to accurately and reliably estimate the full quantitative (COVID-19) impact on full year 2020 results and will communicate as soon as this assessment can be made,” Bpost’s chief executive Jean-Paul Van Avermaet said.
At the end of March, Bpost had said it expected full-year group operating income to rise by a low single-digit percentage, with adjusted earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) coming in between 240 and 270 million euros ($262-$294 million).
The group, which is 51% state-owned, reported first-quarter adjusted EBIT of 75.6 million euros, down 21% year-on-year, but beating a company-provided consensus estimate of 74.2 million.
Bpost provides parcel and e-commerce logistics across Europe, North America and Asia, but has suffered from declining mail volumes as communications shift online and coronavirus-related restrictions have hit international transport logistics.
The company estimated the impact of the pandemic on its first-quarter EBIT was around 16.7 million euros.
Over the quarter, Bpost’s advertising mail volumes dropped by over 60%, while cross-border logistics in Europe and Asia were hit by border closures and reduced air freight capacity.
Earlier on Monday, Dutch rival PostNL (PTNL.AS) reported weaker-than-expected first quarter earnings, but maintained its 2020 outlook, citing opportunities in e-commerce and consumer mail despite the coronavirus uncertainties.
Bpost’s previous dividend policy was to pay out a minimum 85% of the group’s unconsolidated net result. It proposed cancelling its final 2019 dividend payout at the end of March.
Reporting by Sarah Morland in Gdansk; editing by David Evans and Mark Potter