HONG KONG -- MTR, which runs Hong Kong's subways, says it expects another tough year in 2020, with the coronavirus outbreak undercutting profits as travel slumps.
Net profit for 2019 dropped nearly 26% to 11.9 billion Hong Kong dollars ($1.53 billion), MTR reported Thursday.
This year will be just as difficult, railway CEO Jacob Kam said during an earnings call. The state-owned operator already estimates that the coronavirus squeezed profit by HK$1.3 billion in January and February alone.
Kam described 2019 as the worst period in the company's 40-year history.
Total ridership last year decreased 6.4% to 1.91 billion trips. Though passenger count rose 2.5% in the first half, the pro-democracy demonstrations that started in June shrank the second-half number by 14.8% from a year earlier.
In the first two months of 2020, ridership plunged 34% on the year. High-speed lines linking Hong Kong to the mainland were suspended in the beginning of the year. Temporary school closures and the spread of telecommuting amid the virus outbreak dealt a heavy blow as well.
Damage stemming from the social unrest had a earnings impact estimated at HK$2.3 billion, MTR said. Costs include fixing and replacing damaged station infrastructure as well as increasing security, Lam said.
Revenue last year inched up 1% to HK$54.5 billion. Receipts from the high-speed line that opened in September 2018 offset lost passenger fares due to the protests.