Stagecoach upbeat despite '˜challenging' transport market

Transport giant Stagecoach has seen its first-half profits slide by more than a fifth amid a 'challenging' political and economic environment.

Stagecoach boss Martin Griffiths insisted there were 'positive long-term prospects' for public transport. Picture: Fraser Band/Stagecoach/PA Wire

However, the Perth-based group raised its interim dividend as it insisted there were “positive long-term prospects” for the public transport market.

Chief executive Martin Griffiths said: “We have a growth strategy built on continued investment, value-for-money travel and high customer satisfaction and we have made further significant investments to improve our bus and rail services for customers now and in the future.

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“There is a large market opportunity for modal shift from cars to public transport against a backdrop of population growth, urbanisation, technological advancements, and increasing pressure to tackle road congestion and improve air quality.”

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His comments came as Stagecoach posted a statutory operating profit of £108.9 million for the six months to 29 October, down from £137.2m for the same period a year earlier.

However, revenues grew to £2 billion, up from £1.97bn last time, and the interim dividend – to be paid on 8 March – was lifted by 8.6 per cent to 3.8p a share.

Griffiths said that Stagecoach, which owns the South West Trains franchise and is a joint venture partner in the Virgin Trains East Coast route, was “pleased with the performance of the business in the face of a challenging and uncertain political and economic environment”.

He added: “We remain confident that we can continue to deliver long-term value to our customers and shareholders.

“The prospects for growth in public transport in the UK and North America remain good and we are continuing to invest to ensure that our businesses are a central part of that growth.”