What next for European passenger mobility?

Chart of the week

In recent weeks, mobility slowed down again across Europe. Overall, however, European transport-infrastructure returns have been remarkably resilient during the pandemic.

In the first half of 2020, we observed a sharp slowdown in mobility levels. Covid-19 lockdowns impacted passenger transport especially hard, including toll roads, airports and public transport. By contrast, freight infrastructure, such as ports, rail freight or heavy goods vehicles proved comparatively robust, supported by the resilience of global supply chains.

During the summer of 2020, as lockdown measures were lifted across Europe, we observed a robust recovery in passenger mobility, particularly for toll roads, which also benefited from the general avoidance of public transportation. Public transportation has remained sluggish, particularly in urban areas with much of the population working from home. However, passenger mobility appears to have peaked since the summer months. Since then, there has been a steady decline of mobility levels into the fourth quarter of the year, as our Chart of the Week shows.[1]

On a fund level, European transport infrastructure posted a loss of 0.6%, as measured by a common industry performance index.[2] This contrasts with a solid long-term performance of 13% per year over the past 10 years.[2] On an asset level, earnings in some cases were heavily impacted by the pandemic's effect on demand. However, looking at past transactions, valuations continued to be sustained by the lower interest-rate environment as well as wide-spread hopes for a gradual demand recovery from 2021 onward. Such assumptions also supported liquidity conditions and asset financeability.

With the latest accelerated Covid-19 spread leading to another wave of lockdowns across many European countries, we have observed a renewed, substantial deterioration in passenger mobility volumes in January 2021.[3] As a result, we now anticipate passenger mobility to remain sluggish in the first quarter of 2021, with a gradual recovery commencing only in the second quarter of the year, but gaining strength as more and more Covid-19 vaccinations are hopefully carried out. Judging from investors' current risk appetite, they are likely to look again through this, even if big parts of the transport infrastructure are directly impacted.

20210122_CotW_Infrastructure_CHART_EN_72DPI.png

* Includes mobility data for transit stations including subway stations, sea ports, taxi stands, highways and car rental agencies. A baseline day represents a normal value for that day of the week. The baseline day is the median value from the 5‑week period Jan 3 – Feb 6, 2020. Deviation from baseline average (14-day moving average).
Source: Google Mobility Reports as of 1/19/21

Appendix: Private Infrastructure Transportation Performance over the past 10 years


Latest Quarter (Q4 2020)

1 Year

3 Year

5 Year

10 Year

Transportation Total Returns (Europe)

0.9%

-0.6%

4.7%

8.3%

13.0%

Infrastructure Total Returns (Europe)

3.0%

0.2%

5.7%

7.8%

14.9%

Source: EDHEC as of 1/19/21
Past performance is not indicative of future returns. Forecasts are based on assumptions, estimates, opinions and hypothetical models that may prove to be incorrect.

1 . Google mobility data as of 1/19/21

2 . EdhecInfra, "Europe Transport unlisted infrastructure equity index, equally weighted (local)"

3 . Google mobility and OAG data, as at 19 January 2021

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