Coach operator National Express today said it had “beaten [its] expectations” as the firm announced a record year for revenue and profit in 2019.
Profit before tax rose 9.1 per cent over the year, from £220m in 2018 to £240m last year, as the firm reported growth in every one of its divisions.
Group revenue hit £2.7bn, a 12 per cent increase from 2018’s £2.5bn, led by a record year in North America and at Spanish subsidiary Alsa.
National Express’ net debt widened to £1.2bn, nearly £300m more than in 2018. The firm’s free cash flow also fell from £198.6m to £178.7m in 2019.
Earnings per share grew nearly five per cent over the year, closing at 34.5p.
Why it’s interesting
2019 also saw passenger numbers grow five per cent across the group, with record numbers in both the Alsa and UK coach.
Over the course of the year National Express extended lucrative contracts in North America and Spain, including its deal in Bilbao, which is its largest urban bus contract.
It also added new partnerships in Casablanca and Rabat, which made it Morocco’s largest bus operator, and adding an estimated £2bn to the firm’s coffers over the contract length.
The firm also made nine acquisitions, including We Drive U, Silicon Valley’s main employee shuttle bus service.
National Express also used the results to make a string of new environmental pledges, including a promise never to buy another diesel bus.
The firm will look to bring its first electric buses into service next year, and has set a target of achieving net zero across its UK operations by 2035.
What National Express said
Group chief executive Dean Finch said: “National Express has again delivered a record set of results. Revenue and profit are up strongly and free cash performance has beaten our expectations. All businesses have delivered organic growth.
“I am particularly pleased with North America achieving a 10 per cent margin and significantly increasing the number of customers rating their services five-star. The Group is also carrying significantly more passengers.