On January 11 of 2022, Fastned published its Q4-2021 shareholder update letter and held its quarterly conference call. Contrary to USA companies that publish financial reports quarterly, in the Netherlands, the financial report is yearly with a condensed interim report after the first half year. The quarterly update letters are sparse with financial details. For the consolidated revenue, costs, profit, cash, and balance, we have to wait until the yearly report is published on March 29.
We can compare this fourth quarter with the corona-depressed fourth quarter of 2020. We can also compare it with the previous quarter, the first quarter of real recovery after the coronavirus stagnation.
The year-on-year comparison with Q4-2020 shows an increase of 158% in charging revenue, a 128% increase in GWh sold, and a 109% increase in customers. This was realized with a 44% increase in charging stations from 131 to 188. In the last quarter, 35 of these 57 new stations were opened, showing the acceleration Fastned has realized to recover from the coronavirus period. To find the new locations, cut through the red tape, and finally build the stations, Fastned expanded its workforce via 47 new hires, bringing their total to 109 persons.
In the quarter-on-quarter comparison, we see that in the first quarter of 2021 the revenue per station reached the same level as in the last pre-corona quarter, Q4-2019. In the next three quarters, the growth was 11%, 26%, and 25% while opening 9, 10, and 35 new stations in those quarters, respectively. Total charging revenue per quarter grew by 19%, 35%, and 53% in that period.
Based on the H1-2021 summary financial report, it was possible to compute at what level of revenue per station the retail activities of Fastned would become profitable. That level is at about €38,000 per quarter. With the return of growth, it is likely that Q3-2022 can reach break-even territory and Q4-2022 can show a real profit from charging activities.
The more expensive part of the company, called “Fastned projects” in previous articles, where most of the employees work, can receive a significant cashflow from the retail activities. This cashflow lowers the need for external financing and enables a further acceleration of the building of new stations.
Fastned is still a startup. And as every startup, it is burning money before it becomes profitable. The next table shows the relation between revenue and the burn rate. It also illustrates the effect of the coronavirus-related stagnation on the road to profitability.
|Year||Revenue||Burn rate as a factor of revenue|
With a revenue of half a million euros and a burn rate factor of 10, the loss will be five million. The years with a revenue of over €6 million did also see a loss of over €12 million. The 2021 result is not published yet, the burn rate of 1.5 is an estimation. A burn rate of 0 implies breakeven, expected to be reached at the end of this year. Burn rate is in part a management decision. Faster growth produces a higher burn rate. Limiting growth to the money generated by the charging activities, like is possible after 2022, can lower the burn rate to zero. For sake of the transition, the burn rate should not reach zero for several years more.
After all of these financial deductions and speculation based on a non-financial quarterly shareholders update letter, let us look what Fastned did have to tell us about the company activities, expectations, and prognoses.
The year 2022 will be the year of tenders in France and Germany. In France, there will be tenders by private toll road companies for their 360 highway service areas. Fastned must win a fair share to create highway wide coverage. Beside the toll roads, much of France is serviced by public roads. Along these roads, that often touch city limits if not city centers, Fastned can find many more prime locations for charging stations.
The French Fastned organization has shown to be very good at getting stations build. From acquiring a location to opening it, two years is a normal period. In early 2021, Fastned won a tender for 9 locations in the East of France. Nine months later six of these locations are operational. The team needed to start with building the infrastructure to cut the red tape, find suppliers, and hire contractors. This is a team that can open up all of France for EV drivers using Fastned stations.
The German federal government is writing tenders for 1,100 locations. Two hundred of these are dedicated highway locations, the other nine hundred are search areas where the tender winner must find a location for a highly subsidized charging station. These 1,100 locations are tendered in lots of different sizes. There are 6 highway lots and over twenty rural lots.
There is €2 billion available for the opex and capex of these new stations in the first years of operation. The government dictates strict pricing schemes in return for these subsidies. Fastned will try to win a number of these tenders. This will not stop Fastned from looking for prime locations. Location can trump subsidies, as we see with revenue and utilization of Ionity compared to Fastned.
The Flemish part of Belgium is “in the pocket.” With the current sites won, one can travel along the Flemish highways from Fastned station to Fastned station. More support in urban and rural areas is the next task for Fastned Belgium. The French speaking Southeast part of Belgium is still a white area on all charging maps. It has a very green minister of environment and transport, but somehow he does not realize that for clean transport chargers are essential.
For Denmark, Poland, Czech Republic, Austria, Italy, Spain, and Portugal, there is no news. In the comments, you can tell what is likely, or should be, the seventh country where Fastned opens stations.