Greyhound dogs FirstGroup

FIRSTGROUP, the transport company which was rebuffed in its attempt to takeover National Express last month, yesterday said its profits had slumped as its iconic Greyhound bus service was hit by the downturn.<br /><br />FirstGroup, which launched a London-Southampton service bearing the Greyhound symbol in the UK earlier this year, said the unit&rsquo;s operating profits slid 71 per cent to $23.5m (&pound;14.4m) as revenues tumbled in the recession-stricken US.<br /><br />The transport company, which also runs the First Great Western train service, also said it was expecting &pound;140m in subsidies from the UK government this year, after missing its revenue targets.<br /><br />FirstGroup ruled out a further bid for ailing National Express, with chief executive Sir Moir Lockhead saying he had &ldquo;moved on&rdquo; since his cautious bid was knocked back.<br /><br />Talking on profits, the company said an increase of &pound;74m in fuel costs in the current financial year had hit it, but it expected this to reverse in 2010/11. <br /><br />It has axed more than 4,000 jobs in a bid to save &pound;200m in the full year.<br /><br />The impact of the higher fuel costs was felt particularly in the company&rsquo;s UK bus division, which saw profits fall 15.3 per cent to &pound;50.8m. <br /><br />The decline came despite the group slashing costs and reporting like-for-like passenger revenues growth of 2.4 per cent.<br /><br /><strong>FAST FACTS </strong>FIRSTGROUP<br /><br />&bull; FirstGroup reported a slump in profits even though its passenger numbers are picking up.<br />&bull; The company&rsquo;s boss ruled out a future bid for National Express yesterday, after it was rebuffed last month.