FirstGroup's first half revenues rose 8.1% to £2,771.3m, including the new SWR rail franchise from 20 Aug and favourable foreign exchange. Excluding these, group revenue was up 0.9%. Adjusted operating profit flat at £89.4m, with solid trading performances and favourable foreign exchange offset by c.£6m impact of severe North American hurricanes, mainly on First Transit's three contracts in Puerto Rico; in constant currency, adjusted operating profit was down 9.1%. Adjusted earnings per share rose by 35.7% reflecting lower interest costs tempered by significantly higher tax rate as expected; adjusted EPS was flat in constant currency. The group said a £20.5m fall in statutory operating profit to £57.4m; a statutory pre-tax loss £1.9m against a profit of £11.1m last time and statutory EPS reduction to 0.2p principally reflected a gain on disposal of property in the prior period which did not recur. Chief executive Tim O'Toole 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.'
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