Suez, a giant in the sanitation sector with operations from China to the United States, said the business affected by the coronavirus crisis would not return to normal until the second half of 2021.
The shares of the French company, as well as the shares of competitors, are devalued this year, as the paralysis of economies caused by the pandemic has shrunk the demand for its services.
Although some regions are slowly reopening, the prospects for a sustained recovery in activity remain uncertain.
“There are still sectors that have not picked up speed: air transport, car manufacturing and tourism,” Suez CEO Bertrand Camus said in an interview on Friday with Bloomberg Television. “We believe that volumes should return to historical levels later in the second half of 2021.”
This week, Suez signaled that it would record several non-recurring expenses and projected a 6% drop in sales in the first half.
However, activity showed “significant improvement” in June and is expected to “approach” last year’s levels in the second half, the company said.
Camus, who took over in May 2019, is under pressure from investors to increase shareholder returns.
In October, the executive announced a plan to sell 4 billion euros ($ 4.5 billion) in assets by 2023 to reduce debt and channel resources to areas where profit growth is faster.
The first wave of divestments “is progressing well,” and “announcements will be made in the second half of the year,” said Camus on Friday. The Spanish subsidiary of Suez is not on the program, he said, dismissing recent speculation.
Suez has started the sale process for the Swedish waste management division and is preparing to sell similar units in continental Europe. People are familiar with the plans said earlier this week.
Although sanitation utilities have been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic, they can play an important role in tracking new outbreaks by detecting the virus in sewer systems.
Suez has tracking and tracking plans in countries like Spain and France, which can provide early warning of a second wave, said Camus.