Shares in Stagecoach Group rose more than four per cent this morning as the company beat analysts' expectations and said its 2018 earnings forecast was unchanged, despite issues at its UK bus arm.
The transport firm's profit before tax for the six months to 28 October rose to £96.7m from £89.5m the previous year, while group revenue fell to £1.8bn from £2bn.
Stagecoach held its dividend at 3.8p per share and said any dividend growth at the end of the year would be "modest".
Shares in the company rose 4.76 per cent to 184.8p in morning trading.
Why it's interesting
Stagecoach, which operates in the UK, US and Canada, was boosted last week by the government's plans to expand Britain's rail network, which could include restoring old services cut in the 60s and 70s.
"The recent announcement from the DfT [Department for Transport] in regards to rail has certainly reduced the tail risk that was clearly preoccupying some investors, and today's results give us cause for increased optimism. It has been sometime since Stagecoach delivered numbers ahead of forecasts across the board," said Martin Brown, an analyst at Shore Capital.
However, Brown said Stagecoach's bus division was still lagging, with a particular lack of momentum in volumes.
"The shares are not expensive, however, an improved outlook for UK bus is required to really move things forward," he said.
Stagecoach added that revenue trends in North America were improving.
What Stagecoach said
Chief executive Martin Griffiths struck a positive note, saying the company had made progress across its businesses.
Griffiths said: "In UK rail, we are working with the Department for Transport towards new contracts at Virgin Trains East Coast and Virgin Trains West Coast. Our East Midlands Trains franchise has been extended through to March 2019, with the prospect of us agreeing a further direct award franchise from March 2019, and we are part of shortlisted bids for new South Eastern and West Coast Partnership franchises.
"In bus, the actions we have taken on pricing, services operated and commercial initiatives across our regional UK bus operations are delivering the results we expected, while our London bus business has had success in winning new contracts. In North America, we have seen improved revenue trends, new contract wins and growth in profit."