National Express expects improved profits for first half after cost cutting

TRANSPORT group National Express said it expects first-half pre-tax profit to improve year-on-year, while cost cutting measures will bolster its performance beyond this year.

The group said it traded in line with expectations in the second quarter, with its business benefiting from improved margins at its rail business.

“First half normalised profit before tax is expected to show good progress over the prior year,” said the group in a statement yesterday.

National Express, which is best known for its scheduled coach services and rail franchises, said underlying revenues at its coach unit were up three per cent, but first half margin will be dented by a hike in investment.

Bus margins, which are expected to be marginally lower in the first half, will benefit in the second half from measures to drive margin growth.

“The initiatives we have put in place will progressively improve our performance from the second half year onwards, driving earnings and cash generation,” chief executive Dean Finch said.

The group, which also operates yellow school buses in North America and a fleet of coaches and buses in Spain, said it will complete its refinancing ahead of schedule after receiving commitments from banks to provide an unsecured £500m credit facility to 2014.

Shares in National Express, which will report its first half results on 29 July, closed at 227p yesterday.