Shares in over 50s insurer and cruise operator Saga (SAGA) soared 11.8% to 390p as the company said its cruise arm is ready to set sail as soon as the Government allows, with significant pent-up demand and a big jump in bookings.

Saga said it has completed detailed work to ensure it’s ready to resume its tour operations and cruise businesses in 2021 with the specific timing being subject to Government restrictions, and added that customer demand ‘remains strong with evidence of significant pent-up demand from customers ready to travel’.

Its total cruise bookings stand at £154 million for 2021/22 and 2022/23 combined, in comparison to £128 million at the same point last year, representing a 20% improvement. This excludes 2020/21 bookings that have been cancelled where the customer has indicated that they want to rebook but have yet to do so on a specific cruise.


It comes as the company impressed investors with a considerably narrower annual loss and more cash generation than the market expected, despite all the pressures of the pandemic, most notably in its cruise arm.

In its results for the year to 31 January 2021, Saga posted a pre-tax loss of £61.2 million, significantly below the £300.9 million reported in the year to 31 January 2020, before the pandemic began.

Underlying pre-tax profit stood at £17.1 million, an 84.4% drop compared to the £109.9 million reported in the same period a year ago, but still well ahead of analyst expectations of £10 million.

The outperformance was mainly due to a strong result in the underwriting arm of its insurance division which generated a profit of £58.7 million, including £37.6 million of reserve releases, primarily due to ‘continued favourable experience on large bodily injury claims relating to prior accident years’.

Saga’s year-end cash was £75.4 million, around £30 million better than consensus forecasts, with net debt consequently £34 million less than the market was expecting at £760 million.


AJ Bell financial analyst Danni Hewson said there are clear indications of big pent up demand from the part of the population which Saga serves as they get vaccinated, and also praised the job done by chief executive Euan Sutherland, who ‘looks to be doing a good job of righting the Saga ship’ since joining in January last year.

Hewson added, ‘Once we emerge into a new normal, Saga will look to benefit from the continuing growth of the over-50s demographic in a way it has singularly failed to do in the past.’


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Issue Date: 07 Apr 2021