Gilbert tipped to leave FirstGroup

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Martin Gilbert is expected to announce his retirement as chairman of transport operator FirstGroup this week when the company may also unveil plans to raise up to £600 million and a sharp cut in its dividend.

Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan are believed to be working on a big fund raising to help pay down a £2 billion debt pile.

Gilbert is poised to leave the company he has chaired since its formation in 1995.

The company held its interim dividend and there is talk of the final payout being similarly held or even halved.

Pre-tax profits at Britain’s biggest bus operator, which last year announced a £160 million investment in buying buses, are expected to be well down on last year’s £271.4m. Investec forecasts £170m, despite a predicted rise in revenues.

Revenues on its buses rose by 2.4 per cent in its final quarter to 31 March, up from third quarter growth of 2.1 per cent.