Hurricane Sandy knocks profit at rail and bus firm First Group

Marion Dakers
HURRICANE Sandy has wiped $15m (£9.5m) from transport company FirstGroup’s operating profits this year, but the firm said yesterday it had otherwise traded as expected in the final quarter of 2012.

First, which operates Greyhound coaches and school bus services in the United States and Canada, said the storms that battered America’s east coast in October had affected its business in 130 towns and cities.

Closer to home, First’s UK bus unit posted like-for-like passenger revenues up 2.1 per cent in the quarter, slightly lower than its 2.6 per cent pace of growth earlier in the year.

Asset sales are going as planned, as the firm tries to reposition itself following cuts to public subsidies on some routes.

First’s rail business saw like-for-like revenues rise 8.1 per cent. The FTSE 250 company is waiting for the government to decide whether and when to restart the rail franchise competitions, which were frozen in October, before it makes a decision on this year’s dividend.

“While there is significant work still to do, we are satisfied with the progress of the actions taken so far, though we remain cautious in respect of continued economic weakness,” said chief executive Tim O’Toole. Shares closed up 6.15 per cent yesterday at 203.8p.