Abellio is a wholly owned subsidiary of NS and operates in the passenger transport markets in the United Kingdom and Germany. Abellio has generated revenue of € 3.7 billion. In 2021, the coronavirus pandemic continued to have an operational and financial impact on the public transport sector.
For the UK government, the situation prompted an accelerated decision to convert the current system of franchises into management contracts. Operationally and financially, it was a reasonable year for Abellio UK taking into account the special circumstances the operation faced. In Germany, operations continued to be loss-making in 2021. Because it was not possible to reach additional agreements with the most important franchising authorities, the company in Germany was forced to initiate insolvency proceedings on 30 June 2021 with the aim of restructuring its loss-making operations.
Abellio was founded to prepare NS for the liberalisation of the European rail market and help NS to achieve the objectives in the Netherlands. Since 2017, the focus has been on activities that contribute to the interests of travellers in the Netherlands, such as better connections with European cities and cross-border services. As a result of the sharpened focus and the developments in recent years in the United Kingdom and Germany, NS has given consideration to its strategy for the presence abroad if the foreign activities do not contribute to this interest for passengers in the Netherlands.
Capital at risk
In 2016, NS agreed with the Ministry of Finance on a risk capital framework for its operations abroad. The framework stipulates how much capital at risk can be invested in the UK and Germany. In 2021, Abellio remained within this framework.
In essence, the framework prescribes an upper limit for the capital at risk that NS, as parent company of Abellio, may allocate to foreign operations through Abellio. This consists of € 500 million for invested capital (defined as NS share in Abellio equity) and issued guarantees (Box 1). The actual capital investment of NS for Box 1 amounts to € 298 million by the end of 2021, comprising capital contributions (€ 215 million) and guarantees provided by NS (€ 83 million).
Abellio capital at risk
(in € million)
Equity attributable to NS*
Guarantees provided by NS
Guarantees called on (NS portion)
Total paid-up capital and guarantees (Box I)
Total PCS guarantees provided by NS (Box II)
PCS guarantees drawn (NS portion)
Total capital at risk
Of which drawn
Capital at risk for operations in the UK
An additional limit of € 500 million applies to the contracts in the United Kingdom for specific parent company guarantees that the franchise provider requires from the NS parent company (Parent Company Support – ‘PCS’). These guarantees can be regarded as a conditional capital contribution. This was partly taken up as a subordinated shareholder loan with the aim of supporting the operations of the franchises and meeting the required liquidity ratios. No capital contributions or equity investments are required at the start of a franchise. Shareholder loans drawn for investments during the franchise are relatively low because investments in rolling stock are financed via lease transactions for the duration of the contract.
The new management contracts concluded in 2021 for Greater Anglia and West Midlands are subject to a lower guarantee requirement (£ 12 million per contract) and have been provided at the Abellio UK level. NS will be able to further reduce the PCS guarantee for these franchises to € 0 in 2022, once the termination of the Greater Anglia and West Midlands franchise agreements has been finalised. The guarantees for the ScotRail and East-Midlands franchise agreements are expected to disappear after the termination of these franchises, expected during the course of 2023.
- * The reserved capital increase related to provisional termination payments in the UK and was reversed in 2021 because these payments were set at a lower value and financed differently.
Key figures per country
Number of Employees
Revenue (€ million) excluding intercompany
Number of railway contracts
The influence of the coronavirus on Abellio’s operations
The coronavirus pandemic has affected the contractual, operational and ultimately the financial aspects of Abellio’s operations.
In the UK, there was considerable uncertainty and low passenger numbers in early 2021, due to several lockdowns instituted by the UK government. After the start of a vaccination programme, society gradually opened up again and the confidence in public transport also returned. Some restrictions, such as the advice to work from home, were reintroduced in December. Due to the increased sickness rates, fewer staff were available for train services and the timetable had to be scaled down here as well. A recovery occurred from the end of 2021. Since January 2022, social distancing and the wearing of face masks are no longer mandatory in England.
In Germany, passenger numbers were also lower. The different federal states applied different measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. There was a fragile recovery in the summer, but at the end of the year it was a challenge to maintain the timetable due to higher absence owing to illness and quarantine obligations among driving staff. However, the direct financial effect of the coronavirus for Abellio remained limited because most passenger railway contracts are tendered as gross contracts. This means that passenger revenue risk is retained by the tendering Public Transport Authority and any subsidy received is based on the gross costs of the contract.
2021 financial results
Abellio Transport Holding B.V. (ATHBV) consists of Abellio UK (fully consolidated) and Abellio Germany (consolidated until 30 June 2021, the start of the insolvency proceedings). In 2021, Abellio achieved a turnover of € 3.7 billion, of which € 3.3 billion for Abellio UK (exclusive of the Merseyrail joint venture), and € 378 million for Abellio Germany. Turnover decreased by € 172 million in 2021 due to the deconsolidation of Abellio Germany since 30 June, partly offset by the increase in turnover in the UK of € 100 million as a result of an increase in the EUR/GBP exchange rate of almost 4 eurocents.
Abellio generated an EBIT contribution from ordinary operations of € 5 million and a consolidated positive EBIT result of € 387 million, as a result of non-recurring items: these consist of the partial release of coronavirus-related provisions made in 2020 for possible termination fees and asset impairments in the UK. The amount of these provisions was significantly reduced in 2021. This effect is partly offset by a negative financial result for Abellio in Germany due to the provision made for guarantees and possible other liabilities related to the insolvency proceedings. The net profit attributable to NS amounts to € 81 million. A net profit of € 161 million is attributable to minority shareholders.
(in € million)
Revenue (excl. 50% Merseyrail joint venture)
Impact of additional grant to continue to provide rail services in the UK
EBIT before non-recurring items
Net profit attributable to NS
Net profit attributable to minority interests
Net result for the period