Source - Alliance News

FirstGroup PLC on Friday raised its expectations for its financial year as performance improves in the second half.

The Aberdeen, Scotland-based transport company said this was due to an improved performance driven by higher volumes of passengers in its second half starting from September 24.

First Bus passenger volumes increased to 83% of financial 2020 equivalent levels, meaning before the Covid-19 pandemic. Commercial and concessionary volumes are at 87% and 75% of pre-pandemic levels, respectively.

‘The increase in demand has partially resulted from the £2 bus fare cap scheme introduced in England in January,’ the company noted, as well as Scottish funding for free bus travel for under-22s.

Driver resource pressures also eased in certain locations, following a recruitment drive and high staff retention, FirstGroup said.

FirstGroup now expects adjusted operating profit and adjusted attributable profit for financial 2023, which ends on March 25, to be ahead of its previous expectations.

Its guidance for financial 2023 is £137.4 million for adjusted operating profit and £58.6 million for group adjusted attributable profit respectively.

For financial 2022, adjusted operating profit was £226.8 million. Group adjusted attributable profit was £36.2 million.

Chief Executive Officer Graham Sutherland said: ‘I am pleased by the group‘s progress in the second half of our 2023 financial year, which has been driven by increased passenger volumes and improved operational performance in bus and stronger than anticipated demand for our open access operations in rail.’

The group expects to report its results for the year on June 8.

Back in November, FirstGroup reported pretax profit of £8.7 million for the six months ended September 24, down from £516.5 million a year before. Adjusted operating profit was £57.7 million, down from £173.1 million. But group adjusted attributable profit was £30.8 million, up from £13.3 million a year earlier.

Shares were down 0.6% at 104.42 pence each on Friday morning in London.

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