COMPANY’S POST COVID MANAGEMENT
The Company’s excellent performance in recent years (pre-covid) has been the result of a process of profound transformation of the Group.
In the first phase of this transformation, which began in 2014, the strategic plan focused on brand segmentation, portfolio optimisation, strong investments in repositioning and systems and a renewed pricing strategy. This took NH Hotel Group to a second phase, starting in 2017, based on the Company’s strengths and boosting the key levers of value creation in the business. This Plan set out as priorities driving the Company’s revenues and increasing its efficiency, while taking advantage of its strengths for new repositioning opportunities and organic expansion as an additional growth pathway.
With the entry of Minor International as a shareholder, a new phase of opportunities opened up through the creation of a global hotel platform with presence in five continents. Thus, a new era started in which additional opportunities arose, such as:
- The possibility of increasing the current customer base by attracting the growing Asian demand to European markets.
- Economies of scale with commercial partners, travel agents and suppliers.
- The capacity to use a wider range of brands in new geographies, in other words to take NH’s brands to Minor’s geographies and vice versa.
- Access to the luxury segment with new rebranding opportunities and the opening and signing of deals for new hotels in this segment.
- Promote our segment diversification strategy, integrating the resorts market into our growth pillars.
- Integration of the Tivoli operations in Europe under NH’s management.
- Having the best teams, fostering talent exchange.
The Group’s commercial strength and its flexible operational and financial structure have enabled it to overcome the major challenges of the past few years.
At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, hotel demand decreased due to lockdowns, travel restrictions and social distancing, all of which affected mobility.
The gradual rollout of vaccines since early 2021 was the start of the turning point. This, together with the progressive lifting of restrictions in some countries in Europe, made it possible to accelerate the reopening of hotels. As a result, by the end of 2021 almost 90% of the hotels were open, compared to 60% at the beginning of the same year.
As a consequence of the exceptional circumstances occurring after the start of the global pandemic, the Company implemented a number of different measures and plans to adapt the business and assure its sustainability, with the aim of minimising costs, preserving liquidity to cover operational needs and ensuring that the reactivation of the hotel activity would take place efficiently and based on the premise of maximum guarantees regarding health and safety.
During the year, the following cost discipline and control measures continue to be implemented to ensure that operating expenses are minimised and liquidity is preserved:
- Personnel: The Group carried out adjustments, temporary suspensions of employment and reductions in working hours and salary in hotels and central offices based on causes of force majeure or production reasons. Some of these processes have continued in 2021. Additionally, a collective dismissal process has been completed in Corporate Services in Spain as part of a global plan. More information is provided in the Chapter NH ROOM4 People: Employees.
- Operational costs:
- Negotiations with suppliers to reduce acquisition costs, seek alternative products with a lower cost and obtain improvements in payment terms.
- Suspension of non-priority third-party advisory services.
- Significant reduction in marketing and advertising costs.
- Leases: The temporary reduction of fixed leases continued during the first half of 2021 and to a lesser extent during the second half of the year after the initial recovery stages.
- Capital Expenditure: Execution of CapEx was reduced by more than 50% in 2020 and in 2021 it continued to be limited to around €36.8 million.
- Reinforcing liquidity: the Company has proactively carried out a range of initiatives to reinforce the structure of the Group’s capital during the year:
- In May, a 100-million-euro investment by Minor International (94% shareholding) was agreed, through a subordinated and unsecured loan, which was received in May and capitalised in September 2021 through a capital increase process addressed at all shareholders. This arrangement provided immediately liquidity and showcased the main shareholder’s support towards recovery. This capital increase was approved at the Annual General Meeting held on 30 June. Simultaneously to this capital increase, the Board launched the cash capital increase under the same economic conditions and with pre-emptive subscription rights for the other shareholders to avoid dilutive effects on the shareholdings.
- Also, in the month of May, with the aim of continuing to optimize the debt profile, the maturity of the 250-million-euro syndicated ICO loan was extended from 2023 to 2026.
- In June, NH Hotel Group successfully launched a guaranteed senior bond issue on the market with a value of 400 million euros, maturing in July 2026. The funds obtained have been used to redeem the senior bond for a value of 357 million euros maturing in 2023. The new issue, which was significantly oversubscribed, has an annual coupon of 4%.
- NH Hotel Group has also agreed an extension of its syndicated revolving credit facility (RCF) of 242 million euros, the maturity of which changes from March 2023 to March 2026. The support shown by the financial institutions that participated in this financing should be noted, with the extension of the waiver of the financial covenants throughout the year 2022.
- On 30 June 2021, the sale & leaseback of the NH Collection Barcelona Gran Hotel Calderón hotel was announced for 125.5 million euros with an associated 20-year lease agreement and the option to exercise two additional extensions for NH Hotel Group for a further 20 years each, for a total of 60 years. With this transaction, the Company generated a net accounting capital gain of 46.7 million euro.
These milestones achieved during 2021 reinforce the Company’s capital structure and liquidity through a solid financial base with no significant debt maturities until 2026. From this position, NH Hotel Group is ready to face the imminent recovery of the sector from a better financial and capital structure standpoint. In addition, it has enabled the Group to start reducing gross debt in 2021.
FEEL SAFE AT NH
In 2021, NH Hotel Group has continued implementing “Feel Safe at NH”, the plan setting out measures backed by experts (SGS) to deal with the health crisis caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, which NH Hotel Group designed and implemented in spring 2020 in all its hotels. To ensure the safety of guests and employees, NH put a number of different initiatives into place through this plan and adapted almost 700 operational standards, completely redesigning the guest experience cycle.
In 2021, NH Hotel Group has adapted “Feel Safe at NH” in line with the evolution of the pandemic. In fact, in the middle of 2021, as the health situation so permitted, certain pre-pandemic standards were recovered, such as the buffet, or the equipping of rooms including minibar. These steps made it possible to increase the level of quality and guest satisfaction, without compromising our safety levels. The other measures such as signage, social distancing, use of masks, capacity control (according to local regulations), etc. remain in force, assuring correct compliance with health and safety measures for our guests, employees and partners.
This year has also seen the implementation of measures aimed at improving the quality of air in the interior through the installation air purification systems (using HEPA filters) and monitoring CO2 levels in some of our hotels and workplaces. Scientific evidence has shown that the main route of virus transmission is by aerosols, so it is critical to ensure adequate levels of ventilation and air quality in our buildings.
In 2021, the Committee to manage the risk of COVID-19 has continued to operate, making the necessary adaptations and modifications to the Contingency Plan and the “Feel Safe at NH” protocols in line with the evolution of the pandemic.
The NH Hotel Group Joint Prevention Services has continued to provide the necessary advice to all GMs and personnel of NH Hotel Group to ensure correct implementation of the health measures, and has taken responsibility for managing all the cases of COVID recorded among employees, guests and partners (record of cases, identification of close contacts, health Authorities notification, establishment of corrective measures where required, etc.).