COVID-19 has become the first pandemic that mankind has faced since the Spanish flu in 1918. The health crisis has resulted in an unprecedented drop in economic activity, with the resulting impact on society.
Since the onset of the crisis, Ferrovial believed it had an essential role as a social agent, acting quickly and resolutely with four main bjectives in mind: protection of employee and user health, maintenance of essential services, continuity of activities and commitment to the community.
From the very beginning, Ferrovial adopted the recommendations set out by the World Health Organization and the different governments in the countries in which the company operates. It set up a Supervision Committee, consisting of different functional areas at the organization to monitor and implement preventive and organizational measures with a view to ensuring the safety of workers.
Before the first lockdowns were declared by governments, the company had already prepared its teams to work from home and decided to suspend all face-to-face meetings and travel. Offices were transferred to employees’ homes and they were provided with the tools required to ensure they could continue with their activities.
At the same time, it provided front-line workers with the protection equipment and prophylaxis required to perform their duties with the necessary guarantees.
Internal communication was stepped up to inform employees about the company’s situation and the actions being undertaken. The Chief Executive Officer remained a constant presence through weekly emails and videos disseminated.
Around 16,000 employees in Spain and 9,000 in the United Kingdom were on the front line providing critical health, cleaning and water supply services, benefitting 25 million people. Their efforts guaranteed: that 85,000 emergency phone calls were answered each day in the regions of Spain; the management of ambulances and over-the-phone assistance; the maintenance and cleaning of hospitals, with more than 40,000 beds in 13 regions of Spain; the handling of clinical and pharmaceutical waste, in addition to street cleaning and collection services.
The company collaborated with the Region of Madrid to open the IFEMA (Madrid Trade Fair) field hospital, the biggest in Spain, with a total capacity for 5,500 beds. Ferrovial employees worked to assemble 1,600 beds and 30 kilometers of medicinal gas lines in just two days. Furthermore, in collaboration with the Region of Madrid and other companies, Ferrovial participated in the development of the “CoronaMadrid” app, to facilitate diagnostics, patient monitoring and prevent overcrowding at hospitals and reduce the number of emergencies. The actions undertaken by the company include the implementation of vehicle test centers or the provision of free parking spaces to health workers.
In the UK, 9,000 Amey employees maintained 30,000 km of roads and railway lines; collected waste in 20 towns and cities; provided facility management at schools and health services, benefitting 1.3 million people, in addition to maintaining 50,000 homes and 23,000 Ministry of Defense buildings, 18 court rooms, 60 detention centers and provided services to utilities (water, electricity and gas) companies.
Furthermore, the continuity of the company’s business was guaranteed in markets like Portugal and Chile, in addition to the provision of essential services during the health crisis.
At the start of the pandemic, the company guaranteed its financial solvency, hitting a record level of liquidity in June 2020, 7,506 million euros, excluding infrastructure projects. The net cash position, excluding infrastructures, came to 1,668 million euros (including discontinued activities), providing ample coverage to the debt maturities due to fall in 2020 (815 million euros) and 2021 (1,070 million euros).
Despite falls in traffic, the financial robustness of assets improved. Both the 407 ETR and Texan Toll Roads had enough liquidity to meet their obligations in 2020. Heathrow Airport has £3.9 billion of cash, enough to cover all of its payment obligations until at least April 2022.
In addition to the issue of six-year bonds for the sum of 650 million euros with a coupon of 1.382%, with the subsequent subscription of 129.9 million euros; divestments of 5% at Budimex (58 million euros) and the completion of the sale of Broadspectrum (288 million euros), improved the company’s solvency further still.
COMMITMENT TO THE COMMUNITY
Finally, the company offered its assistance to the public authorities and NGOs to alleviate the impacts of the crisis, reflecting its staunch social commitment in the markets in which it is present. To this end, it set up the “Ferrovial Together COVID-19” fund, endowed with an initial contribution of 5 million euros by the company. In parallel, it launched a fundraising initiative among employees, directors, shareholders, collaborators, suppliers and anyone who wanted to participate to increase the amount, pledging to double the amount raised. The total of the fund eventually came to 8.69 million euros, which was set aside for purchasing health equipment, vaccine research and food aid.
The company allocated 4.235 million euros to deliver approximately 2 million meals to vulnerable families through Cáritas, World Vision, CESAL, World Central Kitchen, The Trussell Trust Food Banks, Ayuda en Acción, Acción contra el Hambre, Cruz Roja, food banks and other organizations in Spain, the UK, the US, Chile, Colombia, Peru, Poland and Portugal. This aid benefited around 117,000 people, with the delivery of approximately 2.000.000 meals.
With a view to promoting research in the development of a vaccine against COVID-19, 500,000 euros were donated to the University of Oxford, 250,000 euros to the two vaccine projects run by the National Center for Biotechnology at the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) and 150,000 euros to Baylor College of Medicine in Texas.
In terms of health equipment, 3.555 million euros were dedicated to buying 900,000 masks, 117,000 diagnostics tests, 90 respirators, in addition to other health material or personal protection equipment, delivered to various Spanish regions including Madrid, Valencia, Castilla-La Mancha, Andalusia, Catalonia, Galicia, Cantabria and the Canary Islands. Part of this equipment was delivered through the public authorities or NGOs in other countries including the UK, Chile, Colombia, Peru, Poland or Portugal.