Bus giant FirstGroup defies the downturn

 

Shares in FirstGroup jumped after the transport giant revealed a 2.4 per cent rise in bus revenues and said the turnaround of its UK bus arm was going according to plan.

In a trading statement ahead of its full-year results in May, the UK’s biggest bus operator said that underlying bus revenues rose by 2.4 per cent in its last financial year, to the end of March, while UK rail revenues rose by 7.4 per cent.

Shares in FirstGroup increased by 3.0p to 203.9p. The group also announced the sale of eight bus depots in London for £80million, part of plans to offset tough conditions and build “sustainable” passenger and revenue growth.

The group has around 8,000 buses operating in 40 towns and cities across the UK.

The prolonged economic downturn has weighed heavily on many of the urban areas it operates in, particularly in the North of England and Scotland, while higher fuel costs and lower government subsidies have also played a role.

FirstGroup chief executive Tim O’Toole, said: “While remaining cautious in respect of continued challenging economic conditions, we are confident the actions we are taking will position the business to generate sustainable growth and improved returns.”

In addition to the UK bus  services, FirstGroup also operates around a quarter of Britain’s railway lines through franchises such as First Great Western and First ScotRail.

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