National Express customers fall due to cut in pensioner subsidy

THE UK’S National Express Group yesterday posted a drop in full-year profits and revenues, driven by the removal of a government subsidy on coach fares, which left it with one million fewer passengers.

The group, which also operates bus services in Spain, Morocco and North America, said pre-tax profits dropped to £164m from £180m a year earlier. Revenues fell to £1.8bn from £2.2bn.

National Express put the loss down to its failure to maintain passengers after the withdrawal of the government’s £16m senior citizen concession scheme, rising fuel costs and the loss of its East Anglia franchise

“This made 2012 one of the most difficult years in National Express Coach’s 40-year history" said chief executive Dean Finch.

Finch said on a conference call with reporters that the company saw growth in all of its businesses, but that Spain would continue to struggle against a backdrop of economic uncertainty and austerity.

“I think our Spanish business will have to grow to stand still at the Ebit line. I think it can grow but that growth is not going to come exclusively from the domestic Spanish market, it will be from things like expansion in Morocco,” Finch said.

The group, which won contracts in Germany, Spain and North America this year, increased its full-year dividend by three per cent to 9.75 per share.

Shares closed up more than 12 per cent yesterday at 220p.