FirstGroup shares fall 9% as profit, revenue plunge

Shares of Aberdeen-based transport giant FirstGroup fell about 9% after it reported its statutory pretax profit plunged to £8.7 million from £516.5 million in the six months ended September 24, and its statutory revenue fell 29% to £2.21 billion.

The company said it delivered a “resilient” financial performance despite a challenging UK backdrop.

It said the fall in profit was due primarily to the costs related to the restructuring of its First Bus division and the negative impact of its discontinued North American operations First Student, First Transit and Greyhound Lines.

Pretax profit from its continuing operations, however, swung to a profit of £37 million from a loss of £64.5 million the previous year.

FirstGroup’s net debt rocketed to £1.48 billion at September 24, up sharply from £234.2 million at the same time a year prior.

FirstGroup declared an interim dividend of 0.9 pence per share. Last year, it did not declare an interim dividend.

FirstGroup is UK’s largest rail operator, with Government-contracted operations in Avanti, GWR, SWR and TPE, and is the second largest regional bus operator in the UK, operating in major urban areas including Glasgow, Bristol and Leeds.

Looking ahead, the firm said its expectations for the full year are broadly unchanged, despite a shift in mix between its bus and rail divisions.

FirstGroup CEO Graham Sutherland said: “We have delivered a resilient financial performance in the period despite significant headwinds – demonstrating our strengths in the UK bus and rail markets and the increasing capability and potential we are building into our businesses as public transport continues to navigate the aftershocks of pandemic travel restrictions.

“With a strong balance sheet and an important role supporting the sustainability and economic growth agendas in our core UK public transport markets, we see clear opportunities to create further value and deliver progressive returns to shareholders in the coming years.”


Reporter Heather Rydings

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