Stagecoach shares up amid rail boost

Shares of Perth-based transport giant Stagecoach rose as much as 13% on Wednesday after the firm raised its annual profit forecast amid a strong performance at its rail businesses.

Stagecoach said comparable revenue at its UK rail business excluding the Virgin Rail East Coast rail route rose 1.4% in the 44 weeks to March 2.

Comparable revenue at Virgin Rail Group, in which the company has a 49% stake, rose 6.7% in the period.

In a trading update for its financial year ending April 27, 2019, Stagecoach said: “We have seen further strong trading and positive progress in the UK Rail Division, resulting in an increase in our expectations for adjusted earnings per share from when we announced our interim results in December 2018.”

On the performance of its UK Rail unit and Virgin Rail Group, Stagecoach said: “The financial performance of our rail businesses is ahead of our expectations, with continued good underlying revenue trends.

“We have continued to make progress in achieving favourable outcomes from concluding industry charges and contractual matters associated with the expired South West Trains franchise, resulting in additional profit being recognised in the current financial year.”

RBC analysts said: “We view Stagecoach shares as having had one of the strongest historical earnings delivery track records of the bus-rail segment peer group … ”

“With East Coast exited in 2018, the company is now (we think) regaining its track record with a series of EPS upgrades,” the analysts said. 

Comparable revenue at Stagecoach’s regional bus division rose 3.4%, while revenue from its London bus unit rose 1.3%