Rev­enues ac­cel­er­ate at bus firm First

The Courier & Advertiser (Dundee Edition) - - BUSINESS -

Bus and train op­er­a­tor FirstGroup saw its rev­enues speed ahead in the first half of this year.

The trans­port firm, which runs three rail fran­chises in the UK, saw sales rise by 8% to £2.8 bil­lion in part due to favourable cur­rency ex­change rates.

How­ever, the global op­er­a­tor – which runs the Grey­hound brand in the US – saw its costs rise in tan­dem and the group recorded a £1.9m loss for the six months to Septem­ber 30.

Pre-tax profit for the first half of last year was £11.1m, which ben­e­fited from a one-off prop­erty dis­posal.

The group is con­tin­u­ing to pay down its debt, which fell to £1.2bn from £1.5bn the pre­vi­ous year.

North Amer­i­can hur­ri­canes im­pacted on the group’s three con­tracts in Puerto Rico at an es­ti­mated cost of £6m.

First Rail rev­enues in­creased sig­nif­i­cantly, re­flect­ing the in­clu­sion of the South Western Rail­way fran­chise for the first time, as well as pas­sen­ger rev­enue growth.

Chief ex­ec­u­tive Tim O’Toole said he ex­pected the com­pany to de­liver “sub­stan­tial” free cash gen­er­a­tion for the full year.

He said: “The over­all trad­ing per­for­mance and sig­nif­i­cantly in­creased free cash gen­er­a­tion of the group in the first half was con­sis­tent with the plans we out­lined at the start of the fi­nan­cial year.

“Solid per­for­mances from most of our busi­nesses are par­tially ob­scured by the im­pact of the re­cent se­vere hur­ri­cane on our op­er­a­tions in Puerto Rico.

“In the se­cond half we will ben­e­fit from our nor­mal sea­sonal bias, our on­go­ing fo­cus on cost ef­fi­cien­cies and from ad­di­tional busi­ness which com­menced in the pe­riod, in­clud­ing the South Western Rail­way fran­chise.

“We ex­pect to make fur­ther progress and de­liver sub­stan­tial free cash gen­er­a­tion for the year as a whole.”

Grey­hound rev­enue was up by 1.2% with fuel and cost sav­ings par­tially off­set­ting higher in­fla­tion and main­te­nance costs.

First Bus de­liv­ered “en­cour­ag­ing” like-for-like pas­sen­ger rev­enue growth for the pe­riod, the com­pany said.

With­out the favourable ex­change rate and the new South Western Rail­way fran­chise, rev­enue was up by 0.9%.

The com­pany has no im­me­di­ate plans to re­in­state a div­i­dend to share­hold­ers, which it last paid in 2013.

Pic­ture: Bill Flem­ing.

The bus and train op­er­a­tor man­aged to re­duce its net debt by £300 mil­lion over the past year.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.