FirstGroup keeps chugging on and is set to meet expectations despite challenging UK conditions

 
Rebecca Smith
FirstGroup runs Tramlink for TfL
FirstGroup runs Tramlink for TfL (Source: TfL)

FirstGroup revealed interim results in line with expectations this morning, and said it's on track to significantly increase free cash generation for 2016/17 financial year.

The figures

Revenue was up 5.1 per cent to £2.6bn, while FirstGroup recorded a flat adjusted operating profit margin (in constant currency). Two thirds of business was based in dollars, so the slump in sterling proved a help.

Operating profit was £89m; in 2015 it was £88.4m.

The firm said rebased First Rail margin on new contracts was holding back improving the margin for the group.

Earnings per share increased by 16.7 per cent to 1.4p (with no non-controlling interest in the new TransPennine Express franchise).

Shares were up 1.28 per cent this morning to 111.10p.

Why it's interesting

The transport firm has dealt with ongoing difficult trading conditions; recent disappointing volume trends in bot bus and rail continued throughout the first six months of the year.

But the Croydon tram derailment last night has thrown most other business elements into the shadows. It occurred on Tramlink, which FirstGroup operates on behalf of Transport for London (TfL), and seven people lost their lives with another 51 injured.

Chief executive Tim O'Toole said: "On behalf of everyone at FirstGroup I would like to express our condolences to the bereaved families and friends and to those injured in this incident. We are working with Transport for London and the authorities to provide assistance in any way possible to those who have been affected and to the ongoing investigation."

What the company said

Chief executive Tim O'Toole said:

Our overall trading performance as outlined at the start of the financial year continued during the first half, with encouraging performances by our North American business partially offset by tough trading conditions for our UK bus and rail operations.

He said the firm will benefit from "our normal seasonal bias" in the second half of the year, but "will also face uncertain economic conditions in the UK for the foreseeable future."

In short

The wheels haven't come off here: a solid set of results thanks to "encouraging performances" by FirstGroup's North American business.

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